Thursday, July 24, 2008

Life Lessons from Frog and Toad: "The List"


Frog and Toad Together is my favorite of the Frog and Toad collections by Arnold Lobel. These "I Can Read Books" contain more profound insight into human nature than most grown-up literature. Take the first story in this collection: "The List." Toad makes a to-do list and loses it. That's the short version. The details, though, cut to the quick....

Toad wakes up and makes a to-do list. He decides to write "wake-up" as his first item. Then, he already has something to cross off! I've done this, I confess. I so want to cross those items off that list so that at the end of the day it will look like I've accomplished something. So, I've actually written down things that needed to get done, but which I've already done that day! (sigh) Anyone else out there in this camp?

In addition to the glorious satisfaction of crossing items off the list, Toad reveals another human foible (that I also share): he tells Frog, "'My list tells me that we will go for a walk.'" (emphasis mine). How many times do we let our to-do lists dictate our day? If the weather is beautiful outside, but I've planned a big day of housecleaning, I often still do the housecleaning.

After Toad accomplishes some of the items on his list (get dressed, eat breakfast, go see Frog, go for a walk with Frog, ...), he loses the list. (gasp!) Well, this little event paralyzes Toad. When Frog suggests that they chase after the list, Toad's response is telling: "'running after my list is not one of the things that I wrote on my list of things to do!'" I'm like that, too. I let myself get paralyzed by my list: if it's not on the list, it's not as important as the items that are on the list. This is something I'm trying desperately to overcome. If one of my precious children, for instance, is in the middle of discovering something huge (putting food in his mouth by himself for the first time, for instance, or taking his first, staggering, Frankenstein-looking steps), then I need to pull up a chair and enjoy the show! Who cares if watching junior cram a saltine in his mouth is not on my list of things to do?! What if our power goes out (like it did a few months ago), and I really can't do anything on the list? Then, instead of sitting there fretting like Toad did, I need to seize the day. (Which, thankfully, is what we did).

If you're in this boat, too--paralyzed by your to-do list that will never, ever get accomplished again because you now have a husband and/or children--then take a step back. Some things that have helped me immensely in this area are the following:

1. write only 3 things down: if you only get these three things done, then you're done for the day. Everything else is extra. This is very helpful for me. I put down the truly most important tasks (this might include dinner prep, a load of laundry, and scheduling the twins' one-year checkup...that's it!).

2. plan only one "Big Event" of the day: this might be your shower if you have a newborn in the house, and you're sleeping every other waking minute. Perhaps it's the kids' doctor's appointment, and you know you really won't have time to do anything else during the day. Or, it might be calling a friend you really need to talk to, knowing it will be a long conversation.

3. write down the things you know will be doing, but that are still meaningful: when I was a mother of only one newborn, I wrote down how many times I'd need to nurse her that day, along with taking a shower and taking a walk on my to-do list. At the end of the day, I realized that I might not have done anything around the house, but I was clean, my daughter had been fed 8 times that day, and we had both gotten fresh air. Pretty important in those early days for both of us.

Thankfully, the Lord doesn't have a to-do list when dealing with us, at least not in the way we understand to-do lists. In fact, in addition to all the Scripture encouraging us to be zealous for the faith, do good deeds, love other people, etc. etc., there are some priceless messages to be still, to know that He is God, to wait for the Lord. A personal favorite is the New American Standard Version of Psalm 46:10: Cease striving, and know that I am God.

This is also posted at LiterariTEA.

1 comment:

Bridgette Boudreaux said...

Great suggestions! I have a running list in my head of several things I need to get done. At the end of the day they are ALL still there and they pester me. Instead, I will try your "Write down three" rule. Then at the end of the day I will at least have done those three.

I also love the "only one big thing a day". Often my husband is confused that I have not run a particular errand for him, and my only excuse is that we went to the library and then were too tired/cranky/hot to do anything else. I need to prioritize the "One" thing that needs to get done and do that thing first.

I love this blog, thanks so much for the post.