Thursday, August 21, 2008

To do a To Do list

Every article you read on time management talks about the To Do list. Advice on what you put into the To Do list is varied, and sometimes contradictory, but the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that if you want to add a few hours to your day, you need to have and stick to a To Do list.
But one thing remains unsaid – To Do lists are utterly meaningless for the one person who most needs extra time – a Mother.

If you put on the list any task that is likely to take over two minutes as the rules tell you to, your To Do list for the first 90 minutes of the day has just eight items on it-
- pack a snack for the kids
- wake the kids up
- make them brush their teeth
- feed them breakfast
- make a cup of tea for myself and the hubby
- get the kids into their clothes
- drop them off to the school bus

When the alarm rings, you stumble out of bed, throw on some half-way decent clothes, brush your teeth and head to the kitchen. The kids give less trouble eating cornflakes if they are well soaked, so you do. It shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds, but you know the younger one will eat faster if you break the cornflakes into smaller pieces, so you do.

The older one wants sandwiches with chocolate spread in his lunch-box, the younger one wants half an apple and a slice of cheese. The chocolate spread is not where you know you kept it. You spend precious seconds hunting for it, and finally find it in the most obvious place – the cardboard box in the kitchen where your younger son stores all his precious toys. Sandwich cut into triangular quarters, you snap the lid of the lunch box shut.
Where is that apple the younger one wants? It seems to have vanished, and your niggling suspicions are confirmed when you find a darkening apple core on the dinging table – the hubby’s eaten the fruit you had been saving for the kid. You bite back the retort that comes, and throw in a few salty biscuits to keep the cheese slice company – he just has to manage with what he gets, after all, so many kids go hungry!

Waking the kids up is a mammoth task. It starts on the afternoon of the previous day when you keep the kids awake so they go to bed early and so get their nine hours of sleep at night. Despite all those precautions, the kids will not budge – you have to bribe them with the promise of being allowed to watch Spiderman while having breakfast for them to even stir. And when they do wake up, one wants his diaper removed and the other wants to be picked up, and they both want it NOW!!! No wonder Goddess Durga has ten hands - every mother needs one pair of hands for each kid, and a spare pair, just to survive.

On the stool in the bathroom, calamity strikes – the older one spills water down his shirt front and sets up a huge wail. You grit your teeth and hold back the yelling he is begging you to give him – will accomplish precisely nothing. You pull off his soaking wet shirt, contemplate feeding him shirtless, but pull out his oldest shaplessest t-shirt when his tears show signs of going to the next level if you don’t cover his naked torso. Meanwhile, the younger one has squeezed half the toothpaste out of the tube, but since that doesn’t hold anything up, you just let it be.

Neither will open their mouth for the first spoonful of cornflakes. A couple of minutes of coaxing and cajoling later, the older one finally responds to your yell, and takes in two pieces of cornflakes. But the younger one will not budge – he doesn’t want strawberry cornflakes, even though he had clearly told me that he was not going to eat anything else. You try reasoning with him – tell him that he will get what he wants the following day, and can he please just have what you are giving him today. You try threatening him – if he doesn’t start eating, you will turn off the TV. Nothing works, and the only way you can make him eat anything is by giving in.

You push a spoonful into the older one’s mouth, and go back to the kitchen to make a fresh batch of cornflakes for the younger one. Since you are in the kitchen, you also put the water for the tea onto boil.
The younger one has got what he asked for, but he is still not eating. You contemplate throwing him out of the window, but know that it is not going to serve any purpose – you will just have to climb out and pick him up from the ledge and you do not have the luxury of that much time.
The older one refuses his food too – breakfast should not be interrupted is his motto – but he is easier to brow-beat than the younger one. Then miracle- both kids take in three mouthfuls of food. Things are coasting along, when you remember the milk. Dilemma – should you make the tea and hope things will continue to proceed as smoothly, or do you ignore the tea and hope the water does not all boil away.
The younger one makes the decision easier – he refuses the next mouthful. You go into the kitchen to prepare tea. Just as you are pouring it out, you hear a voice from the bathroom, “Mamma, clean up my potty.” Of all inopportune times!!!

You finally manage to shove all the food into their mouth, wipe their faces clean and squeeze them into their clothes, when the intercom rings – the school bus is waiting to pick the older one up. You don’t have time to comb his hair, so just smoothen it with your fingers. The lift takes an age to come, and the younger one is wailing at the top of his voice – he wants to be set down, but you can’t because you just grabbed him and he is not wearing his shoes.

With many tears, you wave the older one goodbye, gobble the cornflakes the younger one refused to eat then spend fifteen minutes chasing the younger one around the house first pulling off, then putting on one article of clothing every time you manage to catch him and before he wriggles out of your grasp.

The tea has gone cold, but you don’t have time to heat it – the school bus may come any minute now. You grab of your son, push his reluctant feet into shoes, pick up his school bag, check to make sure you have the house keys and go down. And wait. The bus is thirteen minutes late as usual, and you are exhausted by the time you see the little one in.

Less than two hours since the alarm clock went, but you are already exhausted.

To Do lists? What’s that? It is Time a mother needs. And Patience. And Fortitude.


meera said...

Honestly, the only thing you missed out was hubby calling every two minutes to ask you for something :-)

Jaya & Liby said...

Natasha - thanks so much for sharing this blog - I loved reading through this. Felt like you were reading/ writing some of my thoughts, though its only one li'l brat I have to deal with:) Eager to read through your other posts.

Natasha said...

That would make a whole new story!

One kid or two - it really makes no difference.
Kids are DIFFICULT to bring up. But fun too, which is why you can afford to smile at the end of it.

Vasantha said...

I could actually see you running around the kids . If some one had cought the scenes in a camera, it would have been wonderful. I have gone through all this, but not in this magnitude. This may be because,the first one was daughter and the second one was born when my daughter was almost 12 year old !!

All said and done we do like to do all this for our kids.

Vasantha said...

Ah Yes, some times you need to have a Not To Do List This will be the shortest list possible . I have added your coffee rings to my Favourites.

Natasha said...

That is so very sweet of you, Aunty. I am flattered that you read my often silly musings. Thank you.

And yes, I would not want to swap this for anything - much as I sometimes want to chuck them out of the window, I know I would not want it anyother way.

Bubbly Bala said...

Sorry, I am late with my comment - I thought I had already posted, but it was an e-mail I had sent you.

That was a hilarious piece extremely well written. I read it laughing all the way to the end. It was a piece I really enjoyed reading.I was still chuckling over it when I suddenly realised something. Hey, that wasnt a piece written by someone with a great imagination, That was MY daughter struggling with her kids and I know it happens practically everyday. I suddenly felt ashamed of myself for having enjoyed what I read. What an insensitive mother I am ,I wondered.But then I was also proud of my daughter for having put down her daily struggles in a manner that would bring a smile on the face of anyone who read it. That reduced my guilt somewhat,although it didnt manage to completely erase it.

Natasha said...

I did not think it was particularly funny when I wrote it, but come to think of it, it is funny. If you tape all that goes on in the house between 7 and 8:40 am, it could put Mr. Bean and Uncle Max out of business. You have to also remember that I have left out all Ravi's absentmindedness out of it, and the times when he is putting on his shoes, and Naman runs off with one sock and you chase Naman all over the house and when you find him, he doesn't the sock with him - it has been hidden behind motu teddy! Or maybe that should be reserved for another day!

And I see no reason why you should feel guilty about anything. You have struggled enough with feeding me, and I don't think your mother felt guilty about not being able to help you. And the one thing I have now realised is that however stressful feeding and dressing the kids is, it would get over one way or the other in 90 minutes and I can then spend an hour in the air conditioned comfort of the gym. so though I do get worked up, I do not get distressed.

shyamali said...

hey well u've jotted down our mundane everyday sob story. How very truly u put in words those 90 minutes that i cringe each and every morning. Swear while reading i was just playing back just today morn's running around...hoa.
And see how fast i've read and commented upon your musings...was actually wiing those coffee rings all about my home and bringing back my younger one from the ledge!!!
Another truth lingers: elder kids are still manageable younger ones a PAIN

Natasha said...

Hey Shyamali, this seems to have struck a chord in almost all mothers. One kid or two, they are difficult, but I do like to think that the only thing worse than two boys is two twin boys and a spare (yes I know of someone who has three under five - strangely, she is still sane).


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