I was raised in a very strict home, with very set rules and not much gray area. There wasn't much in the way of spontaneity going on in our household. My father was ill much of the time, so my mother was left to care for all of us. Mom kept a pretty short leash when it came to meals, bedtimes, homework, and how much television was watched. My sister and I were given a lot of chores and I usually had to redo them because my mother didn't feel that I had performed to the best of my ability.
My mother was also a planner. She had limited financial resources so she had to plan the household budget to the dime to insure that she wouldn't have to make Dad stand in line for government cheese. She did everything she could to make sure that we never went on Food Stamps or Welfare. She probably could have saved herself a lot of stress and anxiety had she just gone on Welfare, but her Polish pride wouldn't allow it.
My mother was also a planner when it came to the "what ifs" in life. My sister and I were trained at an early age what to do and who to call should Dad have a heart attack when she wasn't home. She taught us what to do if we were bitten by a snake or a dog, or stung by a bee. She knew what to do when our dog was mauled by Poncho, the neighbor's German Shepherd. She knew what to do when a family had a horrible car accident on the Indiana Toll Road, which was in our back yard. Three of the family members ended up dying, but she was the first one climbing the embankment to the accident scene with a first aid kit, blankets and a fire extinguisher--all at the ready--and she had called the police (we didn't have 911 yet.)
While I was in college, I rebelled against the whole, "having a plan" for every little thing in life. I enjoyed living a spontaneous lifestyle of skipping classes and going to the quarries , kissing boys in bars or maxing out my credit cards to have cool shoes. When I was 19, I even ran around Paris for two weeks with a boy named Jesus (pronouced Swee-sous as he was from Catalan.) My cousin Abe, who was 16 and a New York City native (meaning worldy and wise) was beyond livid that his Hoosier hayseed of a cousin was running around the streets of Paris at night with a complete stranger who lived in our hotel. Especially since I was in Paris to be his babysitter of sorts.
After college, Corey and I set off to St. Louis to start our new life together. I spent the 18 months we were there bartending, interviewing for "real jobs" and struggling to pay my student loans. It was there that I started to panic about not having a real plan as to how I was supposed to live my life. When we moved to Maryland and I started to work "real jobs," I gradually lost most of my spontaneity and became a planner. I didn't really become aware of it until a few months before Ella was born. I am now the type of person who doesn't really like surprises (to be fair, a surprise diamond ring would be super.)
Now that I am older, my reactionary and planning abilities sometimes go into overdrive. For example, I knew how to react when one of my elderly employees was having a stroke at her desk a couple of years ago. I have had an emergency plan set up in the three states I have resided since 2001 for the day I will need to drop everything and get to my mother in Indiana. I have State Farm's phone number in my cell phone in case of an accident. And while I DIDN'T react so well when Genna fell down an entire flight of stairs in February, I learned from it and know what to do should something like that happen again.
I find myself planning for things long before I need to. Occasionally, it serves me well. Right now I have the Christmas shopping completed for three of my nephews, and I know what I am getting the other two, plus my girls--it's already planned into next month's budget. I have started holiday baking. I have been planning a surprise trip for my husband for our anniversary (don't tell him!) I gave the daycare two changes of clothes for Genna, even though they only want one. Sure, I know they rolled their eyes at me when I gave them the extra clothes, but they came in handy when Genna crapped through two changes of clothes on Friday! Instead of asking the neighbors about the best doctors, preschools and dry cleaners when we moved here, I asked them for names of attorneys so that I could change our wills and custodial paperwork from Ohio to Pennsylvania.
Sometimes, my planning is absurd. For example, I became convinced that I would die in my sleep while Corey was away interviewing this past spring. As a result, I would drill it every night in Ella's head that if she came into my room the next morning and I didn't wake up, that she should walk next door and tell the neighbors. I knew I needed to tone it down when, on the third night, Ella asked me tearfully why I might not wake up. While I certainly didn't want to scare my daughter, I have learned that people's lives can change in an instant. I want to be prepared. And if I can't be prepared, I want my girls to be--even if they are 3 years old.
When it comes to my everyday life, I usually have everything mapped out with contingency plans. Because my girls seem to thrive on a schedule, I know better than to venture out of the house after lunchtime when they need to be winding down for naps. Therefore, we run errands in the mornings. If something threatens the all-important nap time, I have been known to wake the kids up a little early in the morning to guarantee that they will nap earlier. I don't even THINK about leaving the house without an ample supply of diapers and wipes for Genna and an extra pair of underwear for Ella. I always have granola bars, pretzels and goldfish in my purse so that I can guarantee good behavior in stores from the girls. I constantly work on the girls' manners so that they will be polite in public. And while I am probably asking for trouble when I throw food at them to keep them quiet in the car or stores, it's working for now. Genna is happy and Ella is happy. I know that when I go into a store, Genna will stuff her face and Ella will wave and say hello to every.single.person who passes by. That's how it is. That's the plan.
So when we were at Lowe's this morning in the electrical aisle I didn't have a plan of attack to handle Ella when she pointed at the cross-eyed lady walking toward us and shouted, "LOOK AT THE FUNNY LADY,MOMMY!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! She's funny! Mommy, did you see her? Did you? Genna, did you see the funny lady? She had squiggly hair like Gramma and crazy eyes!" HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
I am now trying to tailor my diversity training materials for a preschooler.