Please note that this is a throwback to my Sanity Check humor column that I wrote for the Dayton Daily News. And, well, the photo is a throwback, too!
Just a few days ago, my 11-year-old overheard me muttering: “I have this to do… and that to do… and oh me, oh my, I’ll NEVER get it all done… and…”
She said, “Mom, are you complaining about all the stuff you never get done again?”
I looked up—startled—from my stack of lists: one for work to-dos, one for errands, one for groceries, yet another for activity schedules, and another for… well, you get the idea.
My daughter had caught me feeling harried, a little out of control, a little overwhelmed. Parents do NOT like their children to see them in such light. So, I admit, I tried to fake out my kid with a grin.
She wasn’t buying it. She shook her head sadly and said, “Mom, what you need is a list.”
A list? A LIST? How could I possibly need another list? I had so many lists that if they were compiled, they would be thicker than the Guinness Book of World Records. In fact, I should probably be IN the Guinness Book of World Records as woman-who-makes-most-lists. Besides the lists on the table, I had call-back-these-people lists in my office, reminder lists taped to my bathroom mirror, errand lists in my car.
Then realization dawned. “Ahh,” I said. “You mean I need a master list—a list that indexes all the other lists and annotates their locations.” As I whipped out a new piece of paper and started my list of, well, my lists, I swelled with pride. What a brilliant kid, to think of such a thing. Why, someday, she’d be an even better list-maker than dear old mom…
“Oh, mo-o-o-om,” she said, in a tone that turned my title into a 12-syllable word AND conveyed a depth of dismay usually reserved for my doing unmentionably embarrassing things like saying “hi” to her in front of her friends when I pick her up from an after school meting. “You don’t need another to-do list. You need to make a list every night of things you’re thankful you’ve done. Sort of like we do at Thanksgiving, when we go around and say what we’re thankful for at the beginning of dinner. Only you should do it every night. Maybe then you’d stop worrying all the time about what you don’t do.”
With that, she left the kitchen.
I stared after her in stunned silence. I had no idea my 11-year-old had picked up so clearly on all my internal—or perhaps, not-so-internal—fussing.
Still, I told myself, as sweet as her idea was, I didn’t have time for it. I was busy with all these things to do, you see. Didn’t the lists I’d already made prove that?
But the idea stuck with me. A few nights later, right before bedtime, I gave it a try. My first effort focused on things that I’d checked off my to-do lists: “Groceries bought. Productive day at work. Caught up on laundry.”
But as the week went on, my thank-you lists took a different turn: “Laughed with kids. Had lunch with husband. Saw beautiful sunset while walking dog.”
Slowly, I felt my focus shift—at least while jotting my thank-you list—from the habit of worrying about things as yet undone, to rejoicing in the satisfaction of simple things already experienced… things that would never make any of my to-do lists.
And that unexpected gift—born of daughterly concern and from-the-mouths-of-babes wisdom—is definitely topping my thank-you list this Thanksgiving.