Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Confessions from Suburbia

Ok, suburbia might be a bit melodramatic.

However, I've come to a realization in this, our seventh year of parenting: Mom definitely had it all figured out.  Don't worry, I've confessed and given her ample opportunity to laugh at me.

I've just spent an hour in the kitchen on a Sunday evening, and dinner did not come as a result of it.  I have:

- Used my laminated grocery list to shop for the week and plan meals in advance.
- Washed grapes and put them in a colander in the fridge.
- Sliced and prepped grapefruit halves and placed them in the fridge with grapefruit spoons on top.
- Written the week's meals on a chalkboard so I don't come in from work and stare into the fridge mindlessly, trying to figure out what it was I was going to fix for dinner when I bought all those groceries.
- Prepped five little containers of fruits and five little containers of veggies for school lunches, plus extras for grown-up snacking.
- Packed Sophie's lunch for tomorrow, and prepped breakfast and coffee items down to bowls by the cereal, spoons in the reusable coffee mugs and vitamins on the counter.
- Filled our reusable water bottles and put them in the fridge, so we have cold water ready to grab.

I realize this hardly makes for titillating reading, and probably appears as though I'm bragging.  Trust me, I'm not.  I used to judge the lady in the grocery store with the pre-typed, nerdy grocery list as some stay-at-home mom with too much time on her hands, struggling to be the alpha in the play-date group.  Now, I recognize that she is simply in tune with her own schizophrenia.  Me too.

All this to say that the realization of this approach to life came way too late, but better late than never.  Here's what that nerdy hour in the kitchen equates to for my family this week:

- I will not stand groggy-eyed in the kitchen each morning trying to remember what highly-intelligent task it is I am supposed to complete (pour cereal, eat with spoon).

- My child doesn't have a lunch that consists of Goldfish and a semi-rotten banana, AND she actually brings home the little containers to recycle for the next lunch rather than us going through gobs of environmentally-caustic plastic baggies.

- My entire family spies fresh, prepared, easy to grab fruits and vegetables in the fridge and (gasp!) they look appetizing, so they grab them for snacks along with drinking enough water daily that I don't spiral into certainty that they will all perish from dehydration (yes, really - I worry about that.  You should, as well.)

- We leave for work and school on time, replete with our reusable supplies for the day so we aren't caught making a last minute (gasp again!) plastic water bottle purchase or using a disposable coffee cup.  Turns out, sustainability comes down to preparedness as well, per my previous rant.

We also now have a genius "go-home basket" (no thanks to my own intelligence) - it's full of the stuff we shuttle around our world.  Stuff that needs to head to the car (the reusable shopping bags from today), the post office, be returned to a friend etc. is all in the basket ready to grab in the morning, right next to our family communication area where we file papers from school, hang keys, place receipts in a file (just getting this one down recently) and hang backpacks, purses, sunglasses, wallets etc.

So why gloat about it?  I'm definitely not gloating.  If what you write becomes gospel, saying it will keep me beholden to it.  I view all of this: the hour in the kitchen on Sunday, the laminated chore lists (for the seven year old and for me), the prepared meals and all the rest of it as my last and only stand against insanity.

Miraculously, our lives have gotten stunningly simple and relaxing - just the opposite of what you'd expect from someone with a laminated grocery list, right?  Meals go quickly, we're on time to work and school, we have time to hang out as a family in the evening, and most importantly: I'm not that Mom I was a year ago, barking at my child to hurry up every morning so she isn't tardy.  Because at the end of the day, it's not the six year old's fault if she dawdles and is late.  Six year olds, it appears, dawdle.  So with a streamlined morning complete with dawdling built in, we still enjoy breakfast together and walk, pleasantly, to school rather than dashing out the door, possibly with or without lunch, homework and hair brushed.

It's a delightful existence, and I wish like so many others I'd discovered why Mom did what she did for all those years ages ago.  It's not a noble feat in alpha parenting - it's a lifeline.

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