Friday, December 07, 2012

While juggling activities, schedule some downtime

From today's Briefing:

Parents know all about juggling. And December, with added layers of planning, shopping, cooking, driving and decorating, calls for master juggling.

The performance isn’t always smooth.

Take one day last week. I had run out of time to pack my own lunch at home. (I never run out of time for the kids’ lunches. That’s a process I could improve.)

At noon, I walked across my building to buy lunch from the cafeteria. I walked back with a cup of iced tea and straw in one hand, chicken tortilla soup, napkin and spoon in the other.

As I neared the giant, heavy door of my office suite, I decided to balance the tea atop the soup and use my empty hand to pull on the door handle. I could have placed both containers on a nearby desk before opening the door, but that would have slowed me down.

I managed to open the door, but I didn’t control the closing very well. The door swung back on my left hand, knocking hot soup to the carpeted floor.

My hasty effort to conserve a few seconds — and my inability to carve out a couple of minutes at home — created a big ol’ soupy mess. A juggling failure.

Two days later was the kind of Saturday that wears you out before it begins — multiple events, some overlapping, that require lots of driving and costume changes.

This kind of juggling act (outdoor workshop, indoor soccer game, Christmas festivities) requires a plan before the day even begins.

Uniforms and layers of clothing were laid out the night before. Lunches were packed just after breakfast.
By 8:15 a.m. we were in the minivan with all appropriate accessories — including but not limited to binoculars, camera, water bottles, shin guards and books.

The first stop was the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area for a three-hour bird-watching merit badge workshop.

We learned how to focus binoculars and read a field guide. We spied birds in trees and on water, in brush and in the sky. We learned the call of the Carolina chickadee, the distinctive swoop of the woodpecker and the eating habits of the belted kingfisher.

We were back in the van just after noon. The soccer game would begin in 10 minutes. Only a helicopter could get us there in time. We planned for Cooper to play only the second half.

While I navigated back toward Frisco, Cooper and Katie ate lunch. Then Cooper wiggled out of hiking clothes and into soccer clothes.

He’d just finished tying his cleats when we pulled into the arena lot. He ran into the building. Katie and I jogged behind.

The arena was packed. But there wasn’t a single teammate of Cooper’s on the fields or sidelines. No familiar parents in the bleachers.

I quickly called two soccer mom friends. Neither answered.

Then I checked the coach’s most recent email. Subject line: Game SUNDAY @ 12:10.

We weren’t late to the game. We were almost 24 hours early.

I shook my head. I apologized. The kids shook their heads. They laughed.

We drove home with no sense of urgency, and we enjoyed a few stolen moments of free time before the next activity.

I choose to consider the episode not as a juggling failure but as a reminder to slow down, pay attention to details and bask in downtime — whatever way it’s found.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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