Guest writer Adam Lanigan gets to grips with his procrastination and getting his kids out of the house with less chaos.
We’ve all seen the Michael McIntyre sketch where he jokes about how difficult it is to get young children out of the house for anything. Too much stuff to remember, bags, coats, have we brushed our teeth, yes I have got your teddy.
I remember watching that before I had children and laughing about the absurdity of it all. Now I am living it on a daily basis! You do not realise until you become a parent that getting out of the house is actually an activity in its own right. Time needs to be factored into your day for it. If I can manage to leave the house with the children, having made less than three shuttle runs between the car and the front door, then I have done very well.
Sometimes I just wish I did much less faffing. Just before Christmas, I went with a neighbour to a football match. We had basically got just around the corner when I realised I had forgotten my gloves. For an evening excursion at that type of year, an unforgivable mistake, but another example of what I call faffing. The gloves had disappeared from their usual place in my jacket pocket to the hall table. A move of less than two yards in the house but ultimately worth two or three minutes of my time to retrieve. If faffing was a sport, I’d be representing Great Britain in the Olympics, but this year, I am trying my best to drastically reduce my faffing.
Unfortunately, I did not receive the Christmas present I wanted above all else – more time. Sadly, that gift has not yet been invented and forget crypto currency, imagine the millions that could be made if you could sell time to people! Now it would be wrong to pin all my problems with faffing on my children. I was a faffer before and I still have things that drive me mad about my own personality. Going back to check I have locked the car after I have parked up. Double checking that I shut the freezer properly. Getting in a flap if I have put my keys in a different place to the right pocket of my jeans!
There is an expression that gathering children together when you want and at exactly the same time is like herding cats – mission impossible. Forget it! We must understand that children do not understand the concept of time as we as adults do. While it occasionally feels like my own kids are deliberately horsing about to delay us getting out of the house, they usually need to do things in their own time to feel happy before they are prepared to let you get them out of the house.
As a paid writer for two decades, my life has been about deadlines. The writing starts to come more easily and the adrenaline kicks in as the deadline approaches. Now that is fine for journalism, but it’s probably not something to apply to fatherhood. My five-year-old son doesn’t understand a deadline so it is down to me. Too often, I slip into the trap of ‘Yes, we’ve got time for another five minutes of playing or OK, we can have a little bit more telly’. You may think you’re being kind to your children, but you are putting your own back against the wall and raising stress levels unnecessarily. I also spent a six-month period in Spain as a student and two things have stayed with me. My aversion to cold weather and the attitude of ‘mañana, mañana’. Again, not an ideal trait for trying to stop faffing.
As a parent, you need all the leeway possible if there is a deadline to meet. And the reality I have discovered is that off-the-cuff parenting does not work. That creates faffing. The idea of I’ll just remember or I’ll rely on having a good memory is a fallacy. 20 things will have gone through my head since that thought about getting my daughter’s scarf out of the cupboard and shock, I will have forgotten what I needed to get.
For an easy life, it’s all about the three Os – organisation, organisation, organisation. Have school clothes ready the night before, make sure bags are packed. Have a firm plan and structure for what I’m going to do on days with the children. More to-do lists and more proactivity. That sounds boring but if it helps me to cut down on my faffing, then I’m all for it.