according to plan

We had our evening planned. Bathe child. Eat supper. Head to church for communion.

Then we texted friends. Up for a visit? We’ll swing by on our way to church.

They were up for it so we got to meet their new baby boy. Our decision was last minute but lovely. Then we went to church. We’d already hashed out the question of going to church tonight. What time will it end? Will we get Ella to bed late, once again? We’d rather not. Ah, but we want to go. So yes, we went and shortly after entering the downstairs hallway, a shift occurred.

It was visibly a small group. One of us would inevitably be out in the hallway with Ella. (When she’s tired she gets quite vocal.) We didn’t want to first make a disruptive entrance and then make a disruptive exit. We knew should leave.

And so we did. And as we drove off, I remembered why most of our friends with small children don’t show up to certain things. It’s not because they’re not interested, it’s not for lack of time…it’s because it’s bedtime. A little child’s bedtime is essentially sacred.

So now I’m home at 9pm on a Friday night, something I haven’t been able to do for a while, for various reasons. We put Ella to bed and reviewed tomorrow’s song set for praise time. And I’m reflecting on parts of the week, the parts that didn’t go according to plan, parts that couldn’t even have a plan. And no, none of these have anything to do with my child. Folks so often think that because you have a child, the stuff that doesn’t go right is because of your child. They tilt their head and give off this “poor you” look accompanied by some well-meaning dose of “It’s gonna be okay, she’ll grow up soon and stop paining your life.”

She eats well. She naps. She sleeps through the night. She doesn’t rule my entire life nor does she ruin it. Sometimes I make bad choices all by myself.

Various choices this week haven’t been particularly bad, per se, but have certainly reminded me that things don’t always go according to plan.

I set out to inform. Message is lost.
I set out to correct. Message is taken harshly.
I set out to confront. Message is hindered by biases we refuse to admit.
I set out to pump at work. I leave parts of my pump at home.
I seek clarity. I get insufficient information with no glimpse of change.
I send an email. Someone replies without reading fully.
I talk about parts of my day. I realize later that I should have added tons more details because small excerpts often leave your audience guessing about the wrong thing.

It happens. I’ve been on both ends. A lot. And I wonder if much of the disagreement we’re part of is because life hasn’t gone according to our particular plan. If we had hours to first provide a clear backdrop that everyone read with full clarity, we could say a lot more, go a lot deeper. We don’t have that luxury. Even if time were on our side, we’re not always wise enough to know what to do or say. So what do we do when life doesn’t go according to plan and we end up in a yucky pile of miscommunication/misinformation/mistakes?

Here are a few suggestions, none of which may actually thrill you but are real:

  • Keep in mind that we’re all doing the best we can with what we have. (I know. It won’t automatically make you sleep well. It’s true, though.)
  • Stop thinking everything’s a personal attack. (Trust me, I know how to take things personally. I also know that in our broken states, some of the hurt we receive–or dole out–is the result of poor coping/processing skills not something we have actually done against the other person.)
  • Check yourself first. Insecurity is often clothed in arrogance, defensiveness, rudeness.
  • Check your expectations of others. Are they realistic for the audience in question?
  • Get excited about the good things–celebrate them for more than a few moments.
  • Know when to stop talking.

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