The Summer Engineer’s Calendar

Engineering my summer project two: Family Schedule and Planning

The tears are not for nothing

Oh how I hate not knowing what is happening. I do not like surprises. I simply detest not being informed and kept informed of the things that will impact me. I hate not being asked for my consent.

I recognize how very much this makes me sound like I am a control freak. Maybe I am. But I am not asking to control everything. I am not asking to be the one to make all the decisions (Really. I would rather not be the one to make all the decisions.) I simply want to be respected enough to be informed and asked for my buy-in.

In the days that followed the Into the Woods misadventure I wrote about yesterday, I became keenly aware of how critical it is for me personally, to know the plan, make sure everyone understands the plan, and ask for/give enthusiastic consent.

What needs to happen

The story I told yesterday is an extreme example, obviously, but it is real and relatively fresh. It amplifies how I feel disrespected and unloved in my own home on a weekly basis when I ask things like, “what time do you need to leave,” and don’t get a straight answer. Or “what time will you be home,” and don’t get a straight answer.

There is no better way for me to choose to write someone out of my own life than them not informing me of the things that will have an impact on how I get organized. Yet again. Does this make me a control freak? Perhaps. But would I rather live as a hermit than feel disrespected the way I do when I am not given the tools I need to organize myself? Yes. The pain and anger of feeling disrespected is more potent than any loneliness could ever be.

I cannot change other people. But I can get better at standing up for my need to be informed. If being able to plot out the structure of my day is this critical, then I need to learn to be more direct and less fearful of being a nag.

Hear this truth, Lily Fields: if it gets to the point where you would rather be alone than with the people you live with because at least if you are by yourself you don’t have any expectation of being kept informed, then perhaps you need to start examining how you keep yourself informed.

On the defensive

Here is the problem with all this: it is a live wire. This is such a sensitive topic that once I have tried to broach it once and been rebuffed, maybe twice and been rebuffed, maybe even three times and been rebuffed, once someone else tries to talk about it (and usually at an inopportune moment), then I get angry.

My attitude is so raw and so damaged on this subject that my default stance is anger which results in defensiveness. And let’s be honest, anything that hurts this bad is something I would rather just leave alone and not go around poking with a stick.

I need to stop ignoring it. I need to stop feeling like a nag.

Hear this truth, Lily Fields: It is not nagging if what you are asking is fundamental to planning your day. It is not nagging if the question you are asking is for the benefit of your entire family. It is not nagging if not getting an answer causes you to question your own mental health, feel crazy or casts doubt on your marriage. You deserve this respect.

I need to be willing to put the power of my creativity and determination behind solutions so that I don’t have to be angry, defensive, crazy or feel disrespected anymore. Stop looking for just one solution, that one magic bullet that will make this problem go away, but as many as it will take in order to make progress. Not just “let’s try this family scheduling app” and then when no one uses it, give up, saying “nothing will ever change. We are hopeless. I am going to go to my grave feeling like this.”

The right way

There must be a way to make this easier. Whether it is in how I ask the questions or how we keep track of the “plan” (whether it be our calendar, our meal plan, our grocery list…) any effort is going to require the buy-in of my family members.

The problem is that I do not want to be solely responsible for making this work. Yes, I am the one who is most effected by an absence of communication. But communication, by its very nature is a multi-lateral.

My greatest fear is that I train my family to think that I am the keeper of the family calendar. I have been someone’s personal assistant before. I was paid very very good money to be someone’s personal assistant before. I hated absolutely every second of it then, to the point of wanting to end my life. So there is no way on this green earth that I will become the unpaid personal assistant to this man I married, no matter how indulgent he may be, and his two ungrateful scalawag children.

I cannot allow it to become my job to be constantly listening for dropped hints about where they need to be when. It is a very slippery slope for me, perfectionist by nature, to go from being their ad hoc personal assistant, to becoming a mind-reading fairy who pays attention to the clock for when they need to start getting ready, who knows what they need to be ready and waves her magic wand to make it all happen.

Do I put too much responsibility on myself? Perhaps. I have tried being a mind-reading fairy, but my failure to be perfect at it makes me sick. I have also tried letting it all fail, but letting things fail makes me sick, too. So neither extreme works.

There has to be a right way. I am this close to checking out entirely. After twenty-two years, it’s about time I start exploring solutions

Never give up

I need to parse through the things that irritate me. There is the disrespect piece (which I know is not done on purpose.) There is the anger at being rebuffed piece. There is the fear of being the keeper of the calendar. There are my own expectations and perfectionism.

Why does this make me so deeply angry? I need to start scratching the surface of that question. Figure out what is buried in there, why this is such a trigger for me. I need to forgive whoever needs to be forgiven and let go of some long-buried feelings of unworthiness.

I need to dig into my anger at being ignored or circumvented. What specific instances of this can I remember and what do they have in common? What is the earliest memory I have of feeling this way?

Why does being responsible for the family calendar translate into being the one who must make everything happen for everyone? I need to deal with this now, because as my boys grow up and their activities become more and more demanding, I need them to learn how to be responsible for themselves. Being the keeper of the calendar does not mean I need to do everything.

Most of all, I need to step back and think of how I want to raise my boys and who I want them to become. I know that I want them to be independent, disciplined and self-motivated. Any solutions I come up with need to be building blocks that they will take with them into their futures. I want to put tools in their hands that will be useful to them as they grow.

Make progress. Just a little bit.

This role of changemaker does not mean that I have to be the fairy calendarmother. I need to be okay just being a catalyst. By changing myself, those around me are going to have to change, too.

I need to find solutions that work for me. If I have a method that I can count on and I get used to using, then I can hope to set a good example for everyone else. This comes down to building habits and having accessible tools that we actually use, where everyone knows to look.

I also need to find habits and routines that include everyone, without expecting that they will actually participate. I need to make sure that they see me using the tools. Even if the boys are too little to write their activities on the calendar, they aren’t too little to help me complete a checklist of things we need before we can go to the pool.

I need to stop expecting people to read my mind when things need to get done: I need to get my mental to-do lists out in the open. (This will be particularly helpful as I have been dealing with menopausal brain fog that feels a heck of a lot like dementia.)

I need to actually write out those checklists of things that go in our swimbag, our park bag, our skatepark bag, checklists which exist in my mind, but that no one has ever seen. Those little boys need someone to set the example for how we can idiot-proof our lives by the simple act of having a checklist.

Taking the high road

As with any of the issues that plague my family life, I know that I am at least one quarter of the problem. And, as I say about just about everything, “If something pisses me off, then I should do something about it.” Combining these two thoughts means that I can only make progress on a maximum of one quarter of the problems our family has if I actually set my mind to doing something about it.

Our family life is like a series of interconnected gears, two big ones and two little ones. The beautiful thing is, if my one big gear can start functioning more smoothly, this can help the others function more smoothly, too. Maybe, by greasing my gear, some of the grease will transfer to them. Maybe by intentionally slowing down the speed of my gear, the others will be able to catch up.

If I can change my attitude and make even a tiny bit of progress in this domain, I will have dealt with one of the most painful roadblocks to my Ideal Life. I just need to get on the right path.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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