The moment took me by surprise. I thought we had more time before I had to have The Talk with my daughter. About the kind of people we really are.
It started innocently enough.
She asked me why, with just a few days left until our vacation, nothing had been packed yet. At first, I dismissed her breezily, with a reassuring “Oh, don’t worry, we still have a few days! It will get done!”
I thought that would be the end of it. But no. She persisted.
“Don’t we have a lot of things to pack? When do you think you’ll start?”
This was more serious than I thought.
“I can help you,” she pressed.
“But honey. We have time.”
“Only a few days. We should get started.”
OH God. It hit me. What if she’s not like us? What if….?
I wondered if it might be time. Yes, it was a few years before I had anticipated, but perhaps she is old enough to handle the truth about us. And so I began.
“Sweetie, see if you can say this word: Pro-cras-tin-a-tion.”
I thought about how to take her through it slowly. The whole truth. How some families planned and did things in advance. And how we, despite our best efforts, are not those people.
We have tried to be those people. My husband and I have, at times, put in massive, valiant effort with the energy of a thousand burning suns. We have even seen fleeting glimpses of success and danced in the fringes of being those people. But, in the end, we were just pretending.
It’s just not in our souls to be finished in advance with any task. To be early. To have down time. To be the first to arrive anywhere. Ever.
Yes, it has worsened over time with the addition of children. But, if I’m being honest, the history is long and consistent.
- Homework. This seems like standard operating procedure for kids, yes? I assumed it was normal to finish my high school assignments at my locker between classes.
- College applications. Not to make excuses, but come on. Every kid in the history of everywhere put off this torturous process. OK, so maybe I put the finishing touches on my essay while weighing the package at the post office. This is attention to detail, folks.
- Term papers. OK, fine, at this point it’s fair to say that I probably have a problem. I thought it was adorable when we received a syllabus on day one of class that pointed out paper due dates for the entire semester. I didn’t forget, I just chose to spend my time on other, more productive college pursuits. Beer comes to mind. Also, I was pretty proud of that time I completed an entire 19-pager in one night. The advanced technology of the Brother Word Processor was the ultimate enabler.
- Work assignments. When potential employers asked me if I worked well under pressure, they had no idea what they were signing up for by putting me on the payroll. In retrospect, they probably just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t crack at the 11th hour. They had no way of knowing that of course I wouldn’t crack then — because I would not have started the project yet. It was still in my “concept phase.”
- Wedding prep. Now that I had come to grips with my procrastination destiny AND the fact that I was marrying someone else just like me, I did the smart thing: I actually hired a wedding planner. And she almost shot me. Just because we wanted to pull together a NYC wedding with 200 people (don’t ask) in five months. Pffft. Come on — plenty of time.
- Vacation planning. Let me just sum this up by saying Me + Disney World has been an unlikely love affair. I’m pretty sure when I phone in with my 1,448 reservation requests about 30 days before departure, I’m driving the lovely employee on the other end of the phone to slug whiskey out of her mouse ear hat while gritting “Have a magical day” through her teeth.
- Baby prep. Registries? Product research? Labor classes? All with a “firm” nine month timetable? Good times, my friends. Good times.
- Kids’ enrollment in (insert any activity here). What do you mean, everyone signed up for fall soccer in June and summer camp in February? There’s a late fee? What? I need to buy snow boots in September? What?
- Household chores and pretty much everything else. You get the idea.
I could go on and on, but I’m tired because I started this post much later than I had planned. And I should be packing for vacation.
I operate best under pressure.
I have uttered this mantra more times than I can count, more out of obligation than accuracy. The truth is that I’m a reluctant and unreformed procrastinator. I don’t embrace it but I am learning to accept it.
Our destiny as a last-minute, late-to-everything family is pretty much set in stone at this point. Basically, my husband and I wake up on the weekends realizing we are already late for something that’s happening five miles away in about seven hours. We just are.
And my sweet daughter deserves to know that this is the make up of her DNA. From both sides.
But, as I look at her pulling out her little princess backpack and dutifully choosing her vacation outfits to place inside before I’ve even done the laundry that I’ll ultimately pack for myself, I wonder if we’ve achieved the impossible. Perhaps my husband I have canceled each other out.
Could it be?
Could we have actually created humans who don’t procrastinate?
I can’t tell you because I got a D in AP Bio after waiting too long to study for my exam on the Genetics chapter. But apparently, there is hope.