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The Dongle, the Welcome Mat and the Planner’s Lament

Earlier this week, as we dropped Number 3 at college, there was a moment when the best planner in me, met the best taskmaster in my husband, and together we clashed on the dorm room floor. It was short and ended quickly, yet an impressionable moment nonetheless; and, as our better selves re-emerged, it was reminiscent of the ZagZig life we had lived for more than two decades.

There is something about the pace and expectations of the corporate life that trains one to be a maniacal problem solver – one that is adept at thinking two-steps ahead and planning for scenarios A, B, C and even all the way to Z in some cases. After doing this for years, and getting fairly good at it – as anyone who practices a skill often – it became a habit that spilled over to my personal life.

MIKE: This is what I refer to as my wife trying to “workize” our family. This term refers to her approach to family life as a high performance, continuous improvement organization. She even uses terms like “let’s develop a project plan, “ “who is accountable for this task,” and “what is the timeline for each task to be completed on deadline.” She applied this work approach to everything from vacation planning to spring cleaning.

Okay, so, after all the years, the family MAY admit that the end result of a project plan is great, but the process itself it challenging especially when they don’t follow “my” rules, at least that is what they say. Here’s what I think. I don’t really have rules – just a process that works. You know what gets measured gets done and if we don’t set deadline or break down large tasks to small bite-sized goals, then it might not get done.

MIKE: I can’t hide it. I am rolling my eyes. Of course, it is good to have deadlines and set expectations. What I think she failed to realize is that six-year olds – my world at the time she defined it as a transferable skillset – don’t follow project plans like adults may do. And I was home with the six-year-old, training him to tie his shoe and get ready for Kindergarten.

While I may have relaxed my standards over time, I felt energized packing for Number 3 for college. I read all the tips on line. Watched the sales and deals over the summer for items on the list. I packed in small increments so that it would not be a big burden the week before we had to leave. (A project planner knows things-out-of-our-control can wreak havoc on last minute planning.)

MIKE: She did a great job, and our son, was happy to have her do it while he had fun with friends. He could care less about what color sheets he wanted; how to organize toiletries in a tight space; or even if he should have a hand vac or one with a handle. Truth be told, I enjoyed the summer too, knowing she had it under control.

Well, the move in went smoothly. I even compromised on a few items -- decorations he decided he did not really like. Then we did the usual last trip to Walmart before we went home. We had a list of a few things we needed to buy to add to the room. I added one thing that was not on the list, a welcome mat for the door, AND that is when it happened, my son and husband totally made fun of me for this one item.

MIKE: Yes, my wife did 90 percent of the packing, and she did an amazing job scouring college dorm lists to make sure we even had the obscure things. Maybe our daughter would have thought about a welcome mat, but come on. We were in a guys’ dorm – seriously – NO. Of course, my son and I ganged up on her and snickered and laughed which did not help.

I am over it. Fine. I will however, take a victory lap for my planning abilities that I have not yet shared with anyone. You see, the day before the college move in, I was driving in my car and I went to listen to a song via my I-phone, and the dongle that connects my aux cord to the iphone was missing. It is my pet peeve that the kids take my things when they are in need, and don’t replace them. Yet, a silent smile came on my face when I remembered that last time I was at the store, I bought two. I stashed one in my glove compartment.

My spurt of anger turned to joy, as I pulled the dongle from the glove compartment and said…”Ha! Ha! No one is going to rain on my parade.” I now can listen to my favorite song as I envision what could have been – a welcome mat in front of a “new home.” I will have to settle for a new dongle and a tune with a great beat!

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