Friday, May 14, 2010

Crossword puzzle parenting

About five years ago I realized that a lot of parenting comes down to logistics. Think about it. How much mental energy do you expend on questions that begin with How am I going to...? When the kids were little, it was figuring out how to get the stroller, toddler, and preschooler up and down the subway steps, or wondering what to do when I'd used the last diaper but there was a blizzard outside and my first grader was throwing up. Nowadays it's how to deliver Snuggler to play rehearsal at the exact time Dancer starts ballet in another part of town, which is when Big Guy arrives home from school (but has lost his house key), and Little Guy needs to buy a present for a birthday party. The how-do-I-get-this-done-nesses in my life are huge. Almost as big as food planning.

What was great about this realization about parenting and logistics was that it taught me something that has reduced my stress level immensely. Logistical problems belong in the crossword-puzzle-solving part of my brain. They don't belong in the stress center. They don't need to be worried about. They are crossword puzzle clues for which I don't yet have the answer. No one is going to die or require a trip to the ER if I don't figure them out.

Hah! Now doesn't that take the pressure off?! I don't have to sweat the fact that I don't know the answer. I can pencil something in lightly, or I can move on to solving 17 down instead of banging my head over 12 across. Lemme tell ya, it is unbelievable how often this approach results in answers to problems I thought were impossible. It's almost as if the decision not to worry frees up extra brain cells.

Since I adopted this method of crossword puzzle parenting, there have been only a very few times when the gotta-go time has arrived and a solution hasn't. On those occasions it's obvious that there is no answer... which lessens the pain and stress of not being able to do whatever it was I'd thought I had to do.

Fact: there really aren't that many things in life that have to get done.

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