Man Without a Plan (#363)

My husband is good at living in the moment.

Planning? Not really his forte. Maybe this is because he lacks an internal monologue.

Sometimes I think it must be very restful in his head. He falls asleep much faster than I do. He plays on his phone in the morning and drinks coffee.

Meanwhile, I’m at my desk, writing out the day’s “To-Do” list amidst constant mental chatter:

If I can get through emails in ten minutes then the dog and I should start our walk where I can call Lawyer Sis and ask how to handle the insurance adjuster from hell and we will be back in time for me to do yoga so my back doesn’t go out again while doing laser pointer with the cat so I can wear cat out before locking cat up when the water mitigation guys arrive which will hopefully mean no more ripped curtains in the bedroom and I’ll make the kid breakfast in a to-go container because we will have no sink to do dishes and damn it, Andy still hasn’t talked to his family about Thanksgiving which I asked him about weeks ago maybe I should text his cousins myself—

As you can tell from the above monologue, it’s mostly sometimes irritating for a planner to live with a non-planner.

Andy drives the same way to the same destination every time he goes. He listens to podcasts.

I drive in silence, lest the noise interfere with the shifting efficiency flowchart in my head: If the light is red at Sepulveda, make a right and take it all the way to Maple before turning, but if it’s green, turn at Carson, unless that light is also green in which case turn at Torrance Blvd…

Andy does do a vague mental outline on projects that are important to him, like stealth building his garage gym. Or stealth landscaping half of the backyard into a vegetable garden. But the execution invariably reveals the limitations of said outline—as evinced by either a week-long trickle of supplemental Amazon boxes and/ or multiple trips to Home Depot.

Seems like, I dunno, creating a detailed list in advance might make the process more efficient?

Yet Andy doesn’t seem to mind. He sees multiple trips to Home Depot as part of the process.

I see wasted time.

The efficiency taskmaster in my head undoubtedly honed her skills when I worked as an executive assistant in Hollywood. She went into overdrive when I became a mom. Baby D hardly napped and had a ton of energy. Every day was a campaign to get household tasks done, pets cared for, a shower, and carve out scraps of personal time—all while teaching/parenting/feeding/playing with a tiny, irrational tyrant. If I got a half-hour to read or completed a workout, it was a victory.

Once Baby D went to school, I gained enough time to write again…only to lose chunks of it as Dalton’s soccer coach, school volunteer, etc. I had an agent—a white man, of course—who moaned about how long it was taking me to write the second book in a series and then asked, “What do you do all day?!”

Pretty sure I spent that day plotting his murder.

Anyway, while it’s sometimes frustrating to be a planner in the passenger seat, it’s probably not much fun to be the driver when your wife constantly offers alternate routes on long drives back from soccer games.

Or at least that’s what I figured when Andy told me to take the wheel one weekend. After checking both Google and Apple and getting us on the fastest route home, I asked, “Was I making too many suggestions?”

“You don’t make suggestions. You give orders,” Andy answered absently, scrolling through his phone. “Nah, I just wanted to check on my pension.”

Since I ‘d finally gotten into the carpool lane and we were cruising along at 70 mph, I did not slam on the brake and scream, “You have a pension?! Since WHEN?!”

I merely said, “So. You have a pension.”

Dalton called out from the backseat, “What’s a pension? Why is mom yelling?”

“It’s getting a regular paycheck after you retire,” I called back. “Usually only available to teachers, cops, and other government workers. Which your father isn’t. Which is why I never thought to ask him if he had one.”

Andy, in an Oscar-worthy performance, said, “I’m sure I told you I had a pension.”

“No, honey. You did not. How on earth do you have a pension?!”

“I got hired just before the current company merged with the old company,” Andy explained. “The current company doesn’t offer pensions, but the old company did. It was one of the reasons I took the job—a pension after 30 years. The new company had to promise to honor the old pension plan before the merger could go through.”

“So…you have a pension. All this time, and I never knew.”

I bit back all the comments I could have made about how much I’d stressed, for more than a decade, about not contributing to my 401k anymore, or how we would manage retirement.

Because, all along, the man actually had a plan.

Or at least an outline.

Guns, and Ships (#357)

I was never going to let my kid play with guns.

I hate guns. Guns make it far too easy to kill people (exhibit A: America). Yes, murder would exist without guns, but pointing and pulling a trigger is simple. Hacking someone to death with a weapon? At least a would-be killer has to work for it. And the time it takes allows potential victims the chance to fight back or escape.

My childhood playmate had no chance against a rifle. She was ten when she was murdered.

I let Baby D play with cars, trains, Legos, and stuffed animals. His screentime consisted of shows like “Thomas the Tank Engine” or “Bob the Builder” or documentaries about firefighters.

He still came home from preschool and promptly turned his Lego cars into Lego guns. He stopped using our dog Woofie’s tail as a fire hose and aimed it while making machine gun noises. When I put a stop to that, Baby D said, “Mommy, can we walk the dogs now?”

“Sure.”

“Yay! I can find some sticks and use them as guns.”

I took my worries about raising a warmonger to a therapist. She explained that most boys have a receptor site in their brain for weaponry (or something like that). Other studies show that “gun play” is important for childhood development and there is no correlation between kids playing with toy guns and criminal behavior.

Despite all the studies, parenting is the newest, least exact of all the social sciences. Parents must choose: ban weapons and risk making them even more desirable forbidden fruit or allow toy guns and risk them becoming a gateway drug to actual weaponry.

Baby D is as stubborn and contrary as children come. I opted for Nerf.

Once the ban was lifted, Baby D went wild in the toy aisle of Target with the piles of Lucky Money showered upon the Number One Son of the Number One Son. Occasionally Baby D opted for other weaponry, such as the Nerf mace (now discontinued because Nerf miscalculated and that sucker can actually do serious damage). For the most part, Baby D chose the latest firearm: zombie shotgun, six-shooter, and even the machine gun (of course there’s a Nerf machine gun). His weapons basket grew into a garage armory. The older kids on the block assigned him the role of sheriff or security when they played town, since he always had a gun. Various visiting aunts, uncles, and cousins engaged in Nerf gun shootouts for days.

I’d like to say Baby D eventually got bored with guns. Instead, he requested a bootcamp themed birthday party in first grade. Then a laser tag party with inflatable tanks all over our yard in fourth grade. He proceeded to use everything he learned from reading The Hunger Games to form short-term alliances, shoot his friends in the back, and win the “Last Man Standing” round. I didn’t know whether to be proud or horrified.

Sometimes, when no other playmate was available, I would take up Nerf arms and play with Baby D. But I think he always knew I’d rather play a board game, or pit a plushie dog/bear army against his plushie cat army.

One day, Baby D grinned mischievously and said, “Hahahaha, Mommy, you’ll be so sad if your little boy grows up to be a soldier.”

I instantly countered with, “Oh, no, Dalton. Our family goes into the NAVY.”

“We do?”

“Absolutely. Your great-grandfather served on a warship at the Battle of Midway in World War II. Your grandfather was a Navy helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War. And my big brother went to the Naval Academy before serving on submarines.”

Dalton thought about this for a few seconds and then said, “But why?”

The real answer was probably because being on a ship is safer than being Army cannon fodder.

But parenting is a long game and mothers are crafty. I leaned down and whispered:

“Bigger guns.”

Are You Okay (#299)

Maybe you have an optimist for a partner. The kind of person who says, when his grandmother has a stroke, “She’s not going to die.”

And she doesn’t.

When his mother has an ovarian mass removed, your husband isn’t worried. “It’s not cancer,” he declares.

The biopsy proves him correct.

While you may agonize over bleeding while pregnant, potential pre-eclampsia, and spiking a fever during labor, your husband does not. “Baby D is going to be fine,” he tells you confidently.

Sure enough, your baby is born ridiculously healthy.

And yet you know catastrophe waits around every corner. When a family member you don’t speak to regularly calls, your first thought is, “Oh, no.” It takes years of practice and therapy to say, “Everything okay?” instead of blurting out, “Who died?” Continue reading Are You Okay (#299)