Last Saturday started like any other. With my coffee in hand, I sat down at the kitchen table with my special notebook, prepared to start the weekend To Do list.
It’s a ritual. I make so many To Do lists, in fact, that no little scrap of paper will do – I have a bound notebook with a pretty floral cover for this sole purpose.
I know this says something about my psyche. I crave organization. I have a need to feel a sense of accomplishment as I cross each item off the list.
Most of the time, I’m not overwhelmed by the sheer size of the list. Rather, any anxiety I feel is based on the fear that I might forget something. God forbid I forget to get the oil changed in the van or sew on the latest Brownie merit badge.
If it’s not on my To Do list, it probably won’t get done.
I recently filled up an entire To Do list notebook. On the final list on the last page of the book, I’d written:
- Buy a new notebook.
So, I packed up the kids and we headed to the store. We made our way to the stationary aisle so I could find a suitable replacement.
I studied the selection. Admittedly, I’m picky about my To Do list notebooks. The cover design has to be simple and somewhat stylish and it has to fit nicely in my purse so I can keep my list at the ready, prepared to add or cross off tasks as needed.
Often the content of the To Do lists is unpleasant:
- Clean the toilet bowl.
- Mop the kitchen floor. (Ew! Sticky!)
…so I like to pick a notebook that is aesthetically pleasing, at least.
As I surveyed my options, my 7 year-old daughter asked if she could get a notebook too. Assuming she wanted it for drawing, I suggested a large tablet of plain white paper – after all, she’s constantly stealing sheets out of the printer at home.
“No,” she said. “I need a notebook like yours. I need to get organized.”
Hmmm. You’re seven years old, I thought. You need to be organized? Anyhow, I obliged and she picked out a notebook with bright pink flowers on it and an elastic band to cinch it closed.
For the rest of the day, that notebook never left her side. She walked around with a pencil wedged behind her ear and every once in a while, would dutifully jot down something.
I glanced over her shoulder to see that she’d listed several tasks, each with a little box next to it, awaiting a check mark of completion. When she noticed I was straining to see her list, she pressed it tightly to her chest and announced that it was not ready yet.
Well, all righty.
I turned my attention to my To Do list instead. It read:
- Plan meals for the week / prepare grocery list.
- Go to the store.
- Fill out permission slip for field trip.
- Laundry. (We need clean undies!)
- Schedule hair cuts for kids.
- Scrub the bathtub.
I didn’t use the check-box system, but through the day, I crossed off a few items, which felt satisfying.
Later that afternoon my daughter approached – still clutching her notebook to her chest. She told me she’d finished her To Do list and wondered if we could work on a few items together.
“Definitely,” I said. “Show me your list.”
She handed over the notebook. On the cover she’d written: “PRIVATE PROPARDY.” (A clear warning to her brother and sister.)
I opened the book to the first page and began to read.
- Clean my room.
- Watch a movie.
- Eat popcorn.
- Have a pupit show. (Puppet show)
- Play sharads. (Charades)
- Pillow fight.
Her list made me smile. For one, I was pleased that she intended to clean her room without any prompting. But mostly, I loved how she scheduled fun activities.
That night, we worked on completing the items on her list. From room cleaning to pillow fighting, we crossed off each and every “task”. Afterward, we collapsed on the sofa, side by side, glowing with accomplishment.
After I put everyone to bed, I reflected on the day’s events.
I realized that I’d taught my daughter a useful life skill (organization) that she would carry on into adulthood. Hopefully this skill would be useful during her college years as she learned to stay on top of her studies, juggle a full social calendar and care for her first apartment – all on her own. Maybe someday, when she’s in her 30’s with a family, she’ll use these skills to run her house as efficiently, if not more so, than I.
I pulled out my own To Do list to review my progress. I’d crossed off a few items, but didn’t make as big a dent in it as I’d hoped.
While I’d taught my daughter how to organize the details of her life, she taught me to remember to schedule the fun. I grabbed a pencil and added a few more items.
- Paint my toenails.
- Watch a movie (one for grown ups).
- Call a girlfriend.
So now I always try to add at least one fun item to my To Do list. Scheduling fun is just as important, if not more, as scheduling chores.
This week's To Do list, for example, includes:
- Clean out the fridge. (Ick!)
But it also lists, in equal importance:
- Build a snowman.
After all, it’s like I always say, if it’s not on my To Do list, it probably won’t get done.