I have a weed problem. I also have an impatient and insatiable desire to cross things off of a to-do list. Fine, let’s get back to the weed problem. I’m not talking about the weed you smoke or throw into brownie batter; I am referring to the weeds that infiltrate my lawn every spring. Two summers ago I taught my daughter to say “bad weeds,” because if she was going to watch me spend hours bent over, pulling crabgrass, she should understand the meaning of what I was doing and why.
Obsessing about a perfect lawn is what I was doing. Why is harder to answer because it’s more than the desire for a nice yard. It’s a mix of enjoyment of yard work and a hatred of chemicals tugging at my brain. Being a parent with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and a need for perfection is a messy blend. I don’t have time to shave my legs as often as I should, but I want blades of grass to be a specific length at all times. I am more appalled by an overgrown lawn than the state of my personal hygiene.
I know there are many more important things to worry about than a perfect lawn, especially when I have three young kids and a dog that treats part of it like a sandbox and chew toy, but I do. And it becomes another thing on my to-do list that never gets to be crossed off, not as a job done to completion at least. Because weeding is a never-ending project, a new weed is always growing somewhere, just like the never-ending tasks on my lists.
Lists help me remember stuff and they clear my brain so I can focus my attention on more creative things—until they don’t. My multiple scraps of paper seem to be a dumping ground for stuff not accomplished. There are reminders of day-to-day stuff I need to do, which I forget to do anyway; there are projects that will likely not get done until the kids are in college; and there are self-improvement goals that can only be met in the one or two 20-minute bursts of free time I get each day if there is not laundry to be folded or dishes to be done.
My naturally shallow pool of patience adds to my frustration of feeling like I’m not getting anything accomplished. One weekend I started three projects without finishing any of them and finally opened a beer. That I finished. But my small amount of patience is not given to my need for perfection. It is used on parenting my three young kids. Each child gets a little bit of what I have left, but the science of splitting patience causes some of the total to be lost forever. And when divided by three, the possibility of ever achieving more than 75% of the original total is rare.
All of this—the OCD, perfectionism, impatience—it’s all about control. And time. Becoming a parent has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. And as the 11-month-old boys get older and interact more with their big sister, it really is the most fun I have ever had. But it’s a lot of work. It takes a lot of time, like a whole day’s worth of time except for those 20 minutes of folding laundry or doing dishes. And most of what happens during the day is out of my control. I can keep three kids safe and contained, but I can’t control them or their moods. So I place my neuroses into a yard that will never be perfect and lists that will never be complete.
My daughter and I went for a walk on Mother’s Day to look for rocks to paint for the fairy garden we are making. At one point she stopped and said, “Look, Mama! All of those houses have dandelions!” She saw them as flowers, something beautiful and something to covet. I had been seeing them as weeds.
And I have been seeing all of my incomplete projects and lists of to-dos as nothing more than bad weeds. They are also beautiful reminders of my life as a parent. If I had all of the time in the world to cross things off of a list then I wouldn’t be the mama I am to my kids. Playing fairies with my three-year-old or the always fun games of peek-a-boo or Who Pooped? with my boys is more important than organizing my desk.
Oh, I will still manage to drive myself crazy with an internal drive that does not seem to rest. And I don’t plan on changing—that would require time and patience; but I will try to focus my obsessing on the things I do accomplish each day instead of on the things I don’t. Drinking several cups of coffee, sweeping the floor three times a day, and getting lots of hugs make a pretty good day. And I will try to see the beauty in the weeds in my life. Unless they are in my lawn. Those will look more beautiful in the trash.