I am one of those people who likes to have a plan. Doesn’t matter if it’s school, work, vacations, midweek, weekend, I function better when I roughly know what I will be doing in a day and when it’s going to happen. I’ve even been known to calculate queer standard time into my plans when planning with others. My tendency to start talking about “the plan” for the weekend before coffee, let alone breakfast, has irked my partner on more than one occasion. Plans help me feel calm and prepared for whatever it is I need to get done, whether it is laundry, cleaning, schoolwork, or socializing. Without them, I tend to get anxious and generally unpleasant.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, being a parent has completely altered my ability to make plans and stick to them. My almost 13 month old kid, Little Bear, was born when I was three-quarters of the way done with my first semester of grad school. It was the most exquisitely beautiful hurricane of joy and stress. I went from having scheduled time for homework, being with my partner, work, transit, exercise, class, relaxing, and cooking, to pretty much everything being up in the air. I had an economics test five days after she was born that I somehow managed to pass and vaguely remember drifting off into daydreams of how perfect her fingers and ears were.
As Little Bear got older, my partner and I settled in a new sort-of routine of parenting. I still was trying to plan my time like I did pre-kid, and that did not go well. I would anticipate being able to work on assignments at home or plan on getting certain amounts of sleep at certain times, and have immobilizing anxiety when life didn’t unfold exactly as I had expected. I started adjusting, stretching, bending. For example, if she wasn’t sleeping when she was 2 months old while I needed to be doing homework I would wear her and stroll around the house reading my statistics text aloud. Which, by the way, is a surefire way to make both you and your kid want to nap.
Frankly, I am still figuring out how to be a parent and a student and a partner and an employee and myself all at the same time. We are fortunate to live in a community where our family has many people that love us, help us out of tight spots with child care, and manage to not roll their eyes when I start talking about the minutiae of having a baby. Even so, I get stressed. I get anxious about time, and money, and when am I ever going to be able to finish projects. I obsess over the remaining balance on the hospital bills from when she was born. I worry about when is the right time and how will I talk to Little Bear about being trans. I spent time late at night recently worrying about how to talk about race and white privilege. I worry about how to talk about our family in a way that doesn’t center my trans identity as it’s queer locus, that both her mama and I aren’t straight even though that’s how we are perceived by the majority of the world. I want nothing more than a clear idea of how life is going to work itself out.
And then Little Bear does something heart melting and perfect like toddling over to me whenever I come home with her arms raised to be picked up and hugged. She “sings” and bounces in time to Whitney Houston while I’m cleaning lunch debris off the walls. She drags her well-loved copy of “Brown Bear” over and climbs into my lap so I can read to her. Or she giggles hysterically while I tickle her, then signs for more as soon as I stop.
As I am finishing up the last few assignments and getting ready to start my last semester of grad school, I’ve taken to reminding myself that in the long run doesn’t matter what the plan is for tomorrow, or next week, or next month. I will get my assignments and work done. Her mama and I will figure out how to talk about our family and ourselves in a way that is genuine. We will even figure out a way to talk about America’s genocidal colonialism. For right now the plan is trying not to worry or plan too much. The plan is to be here in the moment in all it’s messy, loosely scheduled, unplanned glory.