Long Lists & The Worry Rock

I remember when I was an intern in The White House I worked for an incredible woman who had at least six notepads where she organized her life. She was a Wife, Mother and Special Assistant to the President. She worked long, long hours and separated her life onto canary yellow legal pads, making lists for each department of her being. I would watch her scribble intently on each notepad, every single day. At the top, on the cardboard binding were the notebook titles - one for her young son, her home, her husband, her pets, etc. She’d stack them up and carry them with her to meetings and back home at the end of the day. I remember feeling overwhelmed just looking at her lists. “Maggie, how can help you? You have SO much going on,” I’d say. “Well, I know it’s not part of your job but can you research excavation kits for my son’s birthday party? I’m not sure how I’m going to get about buying them by the end of the day? Can you also look for construction hats that all the kids can wear?” Her blackberry buzzed and she jumped up. Come on she said, we’re going to the West Wing now.

My little 21 year old self looked up to her. I remember seeing her cry because she missed her son’s school event. I remember respecting her and feeling a little bit sorry for her too. Her plate looked so full and yet I envied it. I wanted to be like her someday. How she did it, I’ll never know, but I can guess now that she didn’t really do it all. I never truly understood. Until now.

This week out of the blue, I found myself thinking about Maggie. As I sat at my own kitchen table, writing out lists, I thought of her yellow notebooks. Man, sometimes writing things down just feels so necessary and so good. I get it now. Sure, I don’t report to the leader of our country. In fact, in many ways I’m my own boss. And yet, it’s still so challenging. How do you manage your time when so often your time is dictated by things out of your control? Your children. Your family. They need you. But so does your business. And you need to work to help support your family. The circle goes round and round and round.

This week was Grayson’s first week of “real” school. He’s in a K1 (that’s pre-kindergarten) at Harvard Kent which is a Boston Public School. The school hours are 9:30am - 4:00pm. Quite the change from his previous nursery school which he attended there days a week for only four hours a day. I advocated for Grayson to get into this school. Hoped, prayed, wished on a shooting star - you name it. As a family we wanted this. And it happened. I was excited about the idea of all this ‘extra’ time I’d have on my hands. But I wasn’t prepared for the transition. Not at all.

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What I wasn’t ready for was how much of my mental energy would be spent on this transition. The past four days have felt like four hundred and they have been devoted almost entirely to Grayson. I literally do not have the gusto to think about work, or much else.

After his first day, Grayson came home sharing that he was afraid of the school cafeteria and that he didn’t want to go back. It was too loud. There were too many people. VERY rational fears for a 4 year old. The next morning this turned into him not wanting to go to school. He was visibly terrified. I walked him in, peeling his tiny fingers from the doorframe and dragged him into the class. Thankfully a little friend asked him to play and off he went. He was okay, but I worried all day. When I picked him up at the end of day two he was happy. All was good. My mama heart felt relieved. That is until the morning of day three. On this morning my husband was going to bring Grayson in because I was supposed to take Max to fish school. Grayson was crying that he didn't want to go again. I left for the ferry and was hoping Ryan would be okay to handle it. Then I got a call while we were on the boat. Grayson wouldn’t go into the classroom and was screaming in the parking lot. My husband was frustrated and wanted me to talk to him. “I’m literally on a boat in the middle of the water. There’s nothing I can do Ryan!” The phone call didn’t end well. That afternoon I emailed the teacher to check in. She told me Grayson was sad for about five minutes and then was good. He was having a great day. Pick up was normal. He was happy again. I was tired.

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On the morning of day 4 I gave Grayson a tiny, smooth rock. On the rock I drew a very small heart. This is a worry rock, I told him. When you feel worried, rub the rock. Its magic will take in all the worries from your body and hold them tightly so that you can feel better. Keep the rock in your pocket so it stays safe. Don’t let anyone else see it. His tiny hand grabbed the rock and with those big, nervous eyes he said OK. We walked hand in hand to school.

“Do you think your teacher likes the Greatest Showman? Do you think that today you will read a story? He didn’t answer or look at me. “Do you know that Mommy worries too?” He finally looked up. Do you have a worry rock Mom, he asked? Yes, I said. Yes I do. Even Moms worry I told him, but we do the best that we can, because that’s all we can do. And every day we figure things out and it gets a little bit easier. “That makes sense,” he said.

Maggie was doing the best she could do. So am I. And so are you. We can make our lists but they don’t always win. And I’m going to go ahead and say that’s okay. Some weeks are for checking things off and some are for holding little hands tightly. No one has it all figured out. Behind every perfect picture is a worry, a stress, a fear or a very tired person. It’s important to remember that when you feel like you can’t keep up, when your lists are too long or when you are just plain exhausted and can’t try any harder…. that we can’t do it all. We aren’t supposed to. That stuff is for story book super heroes and this my friends is real life. All that other stuff can wait. Walk outside. Find a rock. Draw a tiny heart on it and put it in your pocket. Hold it when you need to. We are never too old, too busy, too clever or too cool for what matters the most. Our loved ones.

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