Deadlines: Cha-cha-cha

>> Saturday, June 30, 2007

“Can I make a maraca?”

Wha...huh? It’s 7am on a school day and energetic young Elizabeth already has a project.

“I want to take something, put something in it, then put tape over it and make a maraca. Can I do that?” she continued.

“Well, sure.” Who am I to quell a creative impulse? “But you have to hurry. You have to get ready for school soon, so when I tell you it’s time to stop, you have to stop and get dressed, OK? Do you understand?”

(See, you have to be very clear and think of possible outcomes ahead of time--i.e. she may not want to stop when I ask her to. So it’s very important to get them to agree, in advance, to stop when you ask them to. Trust me.)

“OK,” she agreed and ran off to collect water bottles and hair clips. She poured water out from the bottles, put the clips inside, put the caps back on the bottles, then wrapped tape around the caps. Michael did a double-take as he walked by and noticed this step. He tried to tell her that tape wasn’t necessary, but he just didn’t understand: taping them was part of her master plan and could not be omitted for any reason, including logic.

So she wrapped the caps in tape and returned with three maracas.

“Look, I made instruments!” she said. “And I did it before you came in there and made me stop!”

Wha...huh? Made her stop? Without meaning to, I had established her first deadline. She’s had other deadlines, of course, but didn’t recognize them as such. You have to do this (clean, eat, stop) before you can do that (play, leave, watch TV). But this was her first project deadline, and I was the boss.

I imagine us working in an office... (squiggly lines... dissolve to goofy fantasy scene...)

“Ms. Elizabeth,” I say with authority in my dress shirt, high heels and sweatpants.

“Yes, Mrs. Mommy?” Elizabeth’s hair is pulled back and she wears pink Tinkerbell clip-on earrings and a formal gown.

“I want you to take this Scotch tape and adhere it to all the animals in this box before I come in and make you stop. I don’t care how you do it, just do it!”

“Oh yes, right away, Mrs. Mommy!” She quickly gathers the necessary materials and begins assembly at her desk (which looks remarkably like our living room couch.)

And before I come in there to make her stop, she has successfully completed another project. All hail the deadline.



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