I love an itinerary. For several years I made a printed “Christmas calendar” for me and my husband to make sure that we could fit in lots of planned fun. Spontaneity is not something I’m renowned for!
But there are now two factors in my life that undermine my love for the predictable: my kids and my health issues. Both can be behaving really well and falling in step with my plans. Then pow! You’re sitting on a bus with a three year-old screaming in your face while the rest of the bus stares you down. Or your energy is just completely gone even though it’s only 11am and you had plans to meet your friends that afternoon.
I’ve had to learn to deal with life being more out of my control than I would like. I’m no expert, but here are some things I have learned that help me deal with changing plans:
- Be prepared. Every parent dreams of the day they won’t need fill their ugly backpack with a spare change of clothes, 17 snacks and a sticker book. I have yet to reach those Elysium fields, but having everything I might need on my back makes the prospect of a mini-disaster less scary. Mini raisin packs have helped us get away with missed trains , hour-long waiting room stints and countless other unplanned moments. (Note: the one time you really need a change of clothes for your toddler, you will have forgotten them. It’s just the law I’m afraid).
- Plan an escape. I’m not advocating ‘worrying about what might go wrong’ here, but considering the realities of the situation often actually makes me less anxious. For example, if we’re planning a day out that has the potential to be exhausting, my husband and I will discuss ‘get-outs’. That might be sussing out whether there are coffee shops where I can sit and drink tea while he takes the kids to run around or thinking about how easy it would be for me to get home early if I need to. We sometimes put ‘hometime’ on parties before we head out.
- Think about other people. Focusing on reducing the impact of a change in plans on Tiny and Small helps me think practically and spend my energy making sure they’re OK. I said I would take them to the local city farm on Saturday when fatigue hit me like a brick at lunchtime. I just couldn’t do it. Instead of letting it make me miserable, I realised I had to focus on helping them enjoy their afternoon at home in spite of their disappointment.
- Make peace. I hate things that go wrong or are incomplete. Sometimes missing an event or something breaking will make me so cross I feel like an angry little terrier. But the sooner I let it go and just accept that ‘these things happen’, the less time I spend on the disruption.
- Make a new plan. If you suddenly can’t do something you were really looking forward to, make a new plan. We had to cancel a date night recently because I wasn’t well. I was OK with that, because we immediately checked with our babysitter and put it in the calendar for another day. We’ve had to miss visiting family for the weekend because of sickness – we suddenly had a free weekend, so instead of sulking, planned some fun things to do in it. Being decisive really helps me when it feels like life is out of control.
I’d really love to be one of those people who deal with disruption well – someone who takes control and calms everyone else down. While that’s not naturally me (I’m much more a ‘panicked flapper’-type), I’ve realised I can train myself to deal better with plans changing. We were on our way to a mini-holiday by the sea earlier this year when our car dash started going barmy and beeping at us, so we had to turn round, go home and abandon our car. We hired a little car and set out later than planned, but had a wonderful time away.
In the past, the car situation would really have wound me up. But somehow, having these conditions and these lovely unpredictable little people in my life has helped me change my attitude to changing my plans.