Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Planning Problems

Sunday, July 6, 2014
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I’ve been told I’m bad at planning.  And it’s true; it is very hard for me to successfully plan anything.  On the one hand, there are a lot of variables I have to consider even when planning a simple day or evening activity – my parents’ schedules, my toddler’s schedule, my crippled dog who needs to be taken outside multiple times a day and requires a fair amount of help with stairs and such…and sometimes these variables can change at the last minute.  On the other hand there is the fact that as an only parent, I feel like I am doubly responsible for making every minute count on the weekends, when I have my time with Max.  So what ends up happening is that either I get paralyzed by the thought of planning anything out, and let opportunities slide, or I try to take on way too much.  I am so lucky to have parents who are giving Max an unbelievably enriched and fun early childhood.  But when I’m with him, I often feel obligated to pack in as many activities as possible during the weekend.  I’m doing it for him, and for me, and also for JP.  I have to do the things I would want to do with him, and also the things that JP would have wanted to do with him.
It’s exhausting.  And in reflecting on the past couple weeks, I wonder if the frenzy of activity I created was, in part, a coping device to get through Max’s birthday, which will always come with its fair share of pain, and my first 4th of July in Chicago since JP died.  Focusing on out-of-town visitors, planning and pulling off a pirate-themed birthday party with 40 guests, and packing the 4th with all kinds of activities prevented my brain from having the opportunity to really process…anything.
The 4th of July was one of JP’s favorite holidays.  Everything that we associate with Independence Day was part of who he was.  From the surface stuff – he loved hot dogs, hamburgers, and especially apple pie – to the deeper meaning of the holiday, JP was a true patriot to his core.  We brought Max home from the hospital on July 4th, 2011, and watched fireworks across the Chicagoland area from our roof deck.  In that moment, we imagined summer celebrations as a family for years to come. 
Max and I spent the past two years on Cape Cod with my in-laws, and it was so, so special to be able to celebrate Max’s birthday and JP’s favorite holiday with them. This summer, I decided to delay our trip out East due to uncertainty around our living situation.  So, instead of enjoying family time in Massachusetts, I found myself with solo responsibility for birthday party plans and figuring out what to do on the 4th.  JP, while no big fan of celebrating his own birthday, loved hosting parties in the summer, and I know Max’s birthday would have been no different.  I think he would have given his stamp of approval to the pirate party.  My parents are amazing, and while hauling all the heavy stuff from the car to the park was a bit taxing to do basically on my own, I really couldn’t have done it without them.  They definitely made it possible to give Max the party JP would have wanted for him.
Once that was done, I didn’t have enough mental energy left to come up with a solid plan for the 4th.  So I ended up putting in a little of everything.  We started with a local bike parade, followed with some playground time and ice cream, then I packed up and headed to Arlington with my boyfriend and Max for their first trip to the track.  I had sort of thought somewhat about timing…thinking he could nap in the car on the way there, and then be entertained by the horses and all the kids’ activities advertised in the write-ups.  But we didn’t see any kid activities, and while it was entertaining, he only lasted about an hour, and his favorite part was seeing a ride-on lawn mower.  So we headed to another playground, and back to the city.  We didn’t end up seeing any fireworks, but it’s probably for the best, given that he was already exhausted and does not like loud noises.  It’s not the 4th of July JP would have mapped out, but I guess I’ll give myself credit for trying something new…
Planning is definitely something I need to work on.  The past few weeks have taught me even more how much I relied on JP for all of our planning (and yes, he was the one who planned our whole wedding).  I was never responsible for making the final decision, nor did I shoulder the bulk of execution of whatever plans were made. Since I have my parents here with me, I have the ability to work on this.  On the days when I try to do too much and end up wiped, with an over-tired, cranky toddler, they’re there to help us get to the end of the day.  They make it possible to accomplish the day-to-day, and the big things.  When I ask for an opinion on what seems feasible, they’re there to give it.  But I need to get used to being the one to come up with ideas and make them happen, both for Max and for myself.  Hopefully by the time my parents have gone back to their regularly scheduled Floridian lifestyle, I’ll be a better judge of how to plan appropriately.  Until then, we’ll be hitting every playground, street festival, and the occasional concert in the park, and hopefully I'll be getting better at balancing everything (and maybe squeezing in a little sleep around the edges). 

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