Project Managing the McCluskys

Posted: November 8th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Husbandry, Miss Kate, Preg-o | No Comments »

Turns out that my past life as a project manager has served me well for parenting. At least in terms of the schedule management. Or so I thought.

So in 11 weeks or so New Baby arrives. Got that down as a milestone. There are a few dependencies associated with that, such moving Kate’s room into what’s now the office to free up the crib for the young’un. And to do that we need to move the office downstairs into this weird little basement room, which means that Mark needs to move all his bike stuff from the weird basement room (multiple bikes, a bureau of cycling clothes, cases of Gatorade, bike tools, helmets, shoes, and a gazillion water bottles) along with tents, beach towels, and sleeping bags, into the the garage.

Mark has already started the bike stuff migration, but the office is still very much intact, and very much teeming with bookcases, books, computers, file cabinets and a bunch of musical equipment.

Every project manager worth their MS Project Plan knows that it sometimes takes completion of one task to spur on the onset of another one. And as it happens I got a flyer in the mail announcing that a huge kid-stuff store is having a furniture warehouse sale tomorrow. So Kate and I are going big girl bed shopping. A field trip which, if fruitful, will result in more urgency around the need to make way in the office for Kate’s new swingin’ big girl boudoir.

And, of course, in my manic state of nesting, I can’t wait to obsess over what all I’ll need to get and do to make Kate’s new room appealing for her, but moreover cute as the Dickens in my own eyes. The potential for endless runs to Ikea and Target to meet this objective makes me giddy with delight. This because I have already overhauled and or re-organized almost every other room in the past two months due to Crazy Lady Nesting, and it seems silly to do them all over again. I need a new outlet for this beyond-my-ability-to-control animalistic phase.

Back on my gantt chart of What Needs Happenin’ Before Bay Comes, is the issue of Kate and preschool. At one point a few months ago, in the productive early morning hours of prenatal insomnia I realized with intense clarity that what I’d need more than anything was for Kate to have a place to go (a nanny share or preschool) 2-3 mornings a week when I was tending to the new baby.

And driven Mama that I am, I somehow took that middle-of-the-night self-assigned action item and made good on it. So now Kate is in preschool. And since no sudden moves can descend on the project plan of family dynamics, we were lucky enough to get her started with plenty of time to acclimate before her little sibling started sucking parental attention away from her like a vacuum cleaner.

And initially it seemed Kate was going to oblige us neatly with little to no transitional issues or new school trauma. But then the “outside time” at the school started to overwhelm her. The kids from her classroom and a couple others pour into the school’s playground all at once and the mayhem and unstructured time seems to throw our Little Miss for a loop.

Give her noodles to glue to a paper plate and she’s fine. But in the wilds of the outdoors she’s been coming undone.

One of the teachers has told us when Kate starts bumming out outside, she takes her in and they hang out and play in the classroom. And at the end of the day when you ask Kate about playing outside, she cheerily reports, “I cry outside,” as if she’s telling you, “We had muffins at snack time.”

Hearing about this has been heart wrenching for Mark. But, especially with the unemotional way she reports this to us, I wasn’t too concerned. By all other reports Kate seems to find preschool pretty groovy. And to be honest, it seemed to me that it wasn’t in the plan for Mark to get waylaid by this little development. It will work out! We will move on! I will buy new curtains for the basement office room and everything will be okay. See how well we are moving through our tasks?

Today the nanny is on vacation. (Selfish.) So I blasted out of the office at noon, feeling a certain amount of work-neglect guilt, to fetch Kate from school. Surprisingly for the time of day I got enmeshed in traffic and drive 15MPH for a solid 30 minutes. I realized I’d be late to get Kate. All the kids who spend the full day there would be lying down for their naps. Then the gas tank went from kinda low to the red light going on. I decided the traffic hold-up left me no time to get gas, but the longer I sat in traffic the lower the indicator needle moved to the bottom of the last white line. (It’s never a good sign when you find yourself rationalizing about where on that last line of tank emptiness you are.) Add to this my desperate need to pee.

Suffice it to say I wasn’t feeling at one with the universe when I skidded into Kate’s classroom 10 minutes late, and then saw she had a big scrape on her nose and a bloody upper lip. When I asked the teacher who was with her what happened it seemed like she was on a slow record speed responding to me. I mean, I think she just said hello to me or something before starting to tell me, but I was already in Crazy Mode and just wanted to know right away what the $^%(# happened to Kate?

The fact is, Kate was fine. Yes, she’d fallen off a log, and sure she cried for a while afterwards, but she was over it. But for me, I felt a disturbing inner lurch as I went from feeling great about our latest foray into preschool into a mode of “wait, this might not all be perfect and settled in my mind after all.” There are some things that I’m going to need to get used to here.

I’d heard that after a couple good weeks an otherwise “adjusted” preschooler may backslide into some transitional issues. But no one prepared me for the fact that that could happen to me as well.

When Kate registered my presence, she started to wimper and demanded a kiss on her owie. And the teacher, after finally sputtering out what happened, decided to launch into details of how she comforted Kate and then what they did, and this is how she was the rest of the day which was really very happy and doing well for the most part blah blah blah, which I suddenly had no interest in hearing about. I just wanted to get Kate and get out of there. (And I wanted to pee.) The thought of Kate having had a bad experience outside, which was already the Bad Place for her, just seemed unbearable. We needed to go home home home.

I struggled down the sidewalk holding the car seat Mark left me when he dropped Kate off against my big belly, and trying not to drop my keys or Kate’s sweater and extra pair of pants. Ten paces behind me Kate dawdled along, dangling her lunch box and looking like a pathetic waif with her barrettes sagging in her hair and her face scraped up and bloody. It seemed like miles to the car and worlds away from our dear sweet home, as Kate announced she wanted to walk on the “crunchy leaves” and slowed down even further. It was all I could do to not sit down on the sidewalk and bawl.

In any given project there is always the unexpected unplanned for snafu that jumps out at you, invariably when you’re also having a bad hair day. And no matter how much of a bad-ass you are, you can’t always rally on the spot and regain your firm grasp. For some project managers the lack of control is probably a fairly familiar feeling, but for others, knowing it could have been avoided devours us.

In all my transitional strategizing and well-laid plans to ensure everyone moved through all there is to do before the new baby arrives, I totally overlooked the potential for me to put a kink in the plans. Without expecting it, and certainly without wanting it, it became apparent that it was going to take me a little longer to adjust to preschool than I’d planned for. It’s not that I suddenly felt like it wasn’t a safe place for Kate to be, or that I even really had any misgivings about the place. It was just its utter newness.

Finally at the car, I heaved the car seat in and was preparing forlornly to climb in with my big belly and crouch over it to install it. My internal dialog was chanting “Home, home, home.” When I looked out at Kate to make sure she was staying safely by the car, she peered up at me and said “I don’t want to go, Mama. I want to stay preschool!”

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