Lists help. There’s evidence from brain research that writing down a list accumulating in your mind helps free up space for other thinking. How else would we ever get anything done, or how would I, if I didn’t keep track somewhere other than my head? It’s too busy in there, even though it’s slowed down a good bit from when I was younger, or maybe I’ve just learned to manage everything that comes up, partly with strategies like lists, so there’s room to keep moving along the circuitous path of one thought to the next.
Lists are also satisfying. You get to cross things off, you get to keep track, if that’s your thing, which it is mine. And apparently Emilio’s too. I was on Long Island this week spending the days with Emilio and Ava to fill a summer-week gap between camp and school. Monday and Wednesday I spent with Emilio and at this point in our lives together we have so many games we could play, so many things we could do together, choice and desire and time all competing, we decided to make a list first thing Wednesday morning so we could organize our day and make sure we did as many of the fun things we had in mind as possible.
The list included a lot of games and of course, keeping track of who won what was important. By 6:30 a.m. we were playing Uno. I lost twice in a row, the first time because of the “switch hands” card I had played on me, a card Emilio had made up himself as another tricky switch in the game. Okay, 2-0 so far, Emilio to Mimi.
Out to the yard for a full nine innings of whiffle ball, during which we managed to keep track in our heads of the score, the inning and who had left runners on base — we switched field and batting teams after any number of runs, calculated on a complicated and constantly negotiated set of assumptions about what constituted a successful run to base, how far runners would advance, whether hitting the ball into the thickest of the backyard bushes constituted a foul because there was no way to find the ball in time to stop a home run, etc. etc. I tied it up in the bottom of the ninth, but lost 26 to 25 in the tenth, a satisfyingly high scoring game. (Love those runs!)
We made name badges for Adrienne and Matt (circles of thick paper with their name, place of birth and a “license plate” around all the writing) for their anniversary. Eight years married and going strong. We played more games, we went to the park to play mini-golf and then got lunch, we did laundry, we picked up Ava at daycare.
We crossed items off the list and added activities as they came up. As we went upstairs after dinner for baths Emilio said, “Mimi! We didn’t write down ‘bath.'” So I wrote it on the list and checked it as done. Seeing Emilio and me at the paper Ava had to be part of it, “color? color?” as she took a pen and scribbled all over the page, squealing when I tried to give her a blank paper. She wanted in on the list too.
It was a very busy day, including giving both kids dinner, a bath and getting them to bed by myself so Adrienne and Matt could go out to celebrate their anniversary. At 21 months and 5 years, little people need a lot of help navigating the routines of daily life and it takes a lot of grown up energy to keep everything on track.
Yesterday I was with Ava for the morning before coming back to New Hampshire. By 11:00 a.m. I was ready to collapse and managed to keep myself up long enough to give Ava lunch and then lie down with her for a nap. Two hours later we both woke up.
I don’t think I’ve taken a two hour nap since I was two myself. And at the end of the day with Emilio? Out of ten games played, Mimi 3, Emilio 7. He’d want me to let you know that.