For the Love of … Tupperware (Not!)

My mother always says ‘there’s a lid for every pot,’ meaning there’s a match out there for each and every one of us. While this may apply to our love lives, it does not translate to my tupperware cupboard. Lawd, how I dislike tupperware.

And this evening, I lost it. I was looking for a particular-sized tupperware container. Meaning, I had to reluctantly rummage among the mismatched, chaotically organized lids and containers. Could I find what I was looking for? Of course not. Not only could I not find what I needed but the rummaging caused lids to fly and containers to topple. Ever so quickly, I tried to slam shut the cupboard door so that the lava of plastic vomit would not cascade out onto the floor. I managed to somewhat stem the flow but the dratted door wouldn’t shut. I opened it another teeny inch, squeezed my arm in and blindly waved it about, hoping to jigger the insides into a less imbalanced stack of plastic. But alas, the door would still not shut.

So I swore. And walked away.

Being somewhat of a control freak, maybe you are surprised at my lack of desire/need to corral these plastic tubs into orderly discipline. However deep my desire for neatly stacked, logistically organized kitchen cupboards, the reality is I don’t like the smell of day-old food hermetically-sealed in plastic, I don’t like packed lunches and I don’t much like leftovers.

Ergo, I don’t like tupperware.

So there you have it.

I’m a Control Freak: Resistance is (Almost) Futile

This past week’s vacation opened my eyes to the fact that I am a control freak. Not necessarily controlling of people, but very much controlling of my surroundings and the order of things. This may come as a surprise to you. Or maybe not?

The first realization came when I decided to totally disconnect from work: the definition of a vacation, surely? Handing off control of the day-to-day management of my accounts to my teams was a relatively easy step – they kick ass, after all. Every aspect of each client’s work was detailed and delegated. The stuff I could control, that is. The fact is that, working in PR, you are only ever in control of maybe 50 percent of your day. Events can take a turn in a nanosecond. So abdicating that which might happen and which I couldn’t control while lying poolside required a leap of faith. Not that I don’t trust my teams to do great work; more the realization that I wouldn’t be part of the process and, quite frankly, they could get it done with out me.

Next, pre-vacation organization, akin to a military operation. Making sure everyone is equipped with sufficient clothes, toys, sunscreen and so on was the easy part. Packing even was straightforward. It’s all the household management stuff that gets complex. Ensuring we had just enough groceries to feed us the days up to our vacation but not so much that it would spoil while we were away. And making sure there were basics in the cupboards for immediate consumption upon our we return. Ditto for laundry. Ensuring all the items needed for vacation were clean and dry in time and making sure there were sufficient clean clothes to come home to. It’s all in the details, the planning. General Patraeus would be proud of me.

Vacation travel: I must be in charge of the passports and travel documentation, always.

At the hotel: the immediate urge to unpack and arrange our stuff. Order must be established and maintained, especially if we are all sharing the same living space. And while I’m not overly OCD about hygiene, hotel bathrooms skeeve me out big time. Sharing hotel bathrooms with kids and a husband who tend to deposit damp towels and toothpaste lids on to the floor makes my skin crawl. Sand on bathroom and bedroom floors drive me nuts. Crushed chips and Cheerios on my bed push me over the edge.

And then there’s the topic of routine. I love routine. I’m addicted to routine. Just like a child, it gives me structure, predictability and yes, control. But a vacation is all about relinquishing routine, letting go, que sera sera and all that. While I’m first to admit that my main priority for this vacation was to sit my the pool and do nothing, the reality was I was not alone. We all needed feeding, clothing, bathing. entertaining. In short, we needed a vacation routine, but one much more flexible and fun than the home routine, of course. I was happy to oblige, to lay the groundwork, think ahead, plan out the details.

Coming home is, in truth, a control freak’s nirvana. Because order and routine needs re-establishing. Cases need unpacking, things need putting away, clothes need laundering, the empty fridge needs re-stocking. Ahhhh! This has been my day today and I’ve enjoyed every single second of it. Don’t tell anyone, but I was even looking forward to it.

So while I’m certainly no Christian Gray, I am self-aware and I realize that letting go and letting be is just not in my DNA. If I don’t think of and manage these things, who will?  To quote Adrian Monk, “it’s a gift …. and a curse.”

Parenting Payback: How to Get Your Kids to Do Stuff – for You!

I am by no means a perfect mother. I say ‘no’ a great deal, the naughty step is frequently used, I threaten to throw away all the toys that are widely distributed throughout our house, I bribe with chocolate and I’m not above feeding my kids a Happy Meal from time to time. I feel guilty when I put my work – or the next tweet or FB status – before their immediate need for x, y or z. My tolerance threshold for whining is very, very (did I say very?) low. There are many unanticipated realities of parenthood that keep me dazed and confused every day.

Still, there is a lot that I think I might be doing right. When I say I – I mean my husband and I – because it’s a team sport, this parenting business.

Right from the beginning, our wonderfully wise pediatrician told us not to become short order cooks for our kids. Dinner is what’s on their plates. Same thing for everyone. If you don’t eat it, it’s a long time till breakfast. We have tried our very hardest to maintain this policy, even when it’s meant our  four year-old daughter going to bed with an empty tummy and waking up hungry in the night. Call me mean, but the lesson is slowing seeping into her angelic and often quirky grey matter. Last week she voraciously ate swordfish! (Of course, this week she turned it down) It’s worked with my son too –  he now has a man-sized appetite and is (mostly) willing to try new foods.

Beyond the dinner table, we’ve taken this approach further. By that I mean that teaching our kids to do stuff for themselves is an everyday priority. Self-reliance, independence, resourcefulness – call it what you will, but teaching it to your kids from an early age is so important. It was tough for me at first. Being the control freak that I am, it was intolerably painful sitting by and watching my toddler figure out how to get into feety jammies and zip ‘em up by herself. Standing back as your kids pour cereal into their own bowls knowing that, at any moment, the entire contents of the Cheerio box are going to be avalanching out of the packet and cascading onto the floor. Waiting for your kid to figure how out to buckle their own car seat when you are already running ten minutes behind schedule.

The key, we discovered, was to drill this concept of self-reliance into them precisely during the “I want to do it by myself” stage (which starts around three) to the “teach me how to do it” and “can I help?” stages (which are roughly from four to seven – and who knows maybe longer.)

Patience, restraint and several large glasses of wine later ….  the rewards for teaching our kids to be resourceful is paying off. Not only are they doing more stuff for themselves (and feeling proud about it,) now they are finally doing stuff for me! See what I mean? Hooray!

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