Happier Parents leave wiggle room

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash


I had an amazing morning today, which can be summed up as follows: got child to doctor’s appointment on time.

Let’s back up. Why would that constitute an amazing morning? Because it’s something I rarely achieve. The doctor’s office is a 25-30 minute drive, at the end of which, just as you’re thinking hey, we’re just in time, you encounter the parking garage. The parking garage takes a minimum of ten minutes to navigate, because it’s a narrow structure filled with hesitant older drivers, most of whom rarely deal with such big city novelties, along with giant rural New England trucks and SUVs that can’t get in and out of the parking spaces without, at a minimum, a three-point turn.

That garage kills me every time. I have it in my head that we’re a thirty minute drive from the hospital/doctor’s office, and that’s what I go with. But it’s not a thirty minute drive unless, at the end of it, you’re allowed to leap out of your car at the entrance and race into the building.

Our doctor’s office, in short, does not offer valet parking.

Usually, about ten minutes into the drive, it dawns on me that we’re not going to make it. My thought stream for the next 20 minutes goes something like this: if I can just go a little quicker than usual, we’ll cut a few minutes off the drive and then maybe there will be a wide enough spot for us on the first level and we won’t have to take the stairs and we’re really almost there…

My shoulders are in my ears and my mind is spinning around on that same train. We won’t make it, maybe we’ll make it, we won’t make it, maybe we will…

We never do.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why so many of us get caught up in these repeating errors. For me, the magical thinking regarding transit time is a particular problem (unless I do the math, I tend to allow exactly as much time as it would take for Scotty to beam me to my destination—and even then, I’d be late, because I would have forgotten how hard it can be to wrestle a kid into the Transporter).

Lately, I’ve been working hard to give myself a little leeway, and not just when it comes to allowing 45 minutes for a 30 minute drive. I fill the tank at a quarter full. Plan one or more fewer things every day and every week. Cook an extra meal for the freezer. Get myself ready to leave the house long before it’s time to go.

It’s kind of remarkable how big a difference it can make when you put a little slack in the system. It’s a little thing, but this morning it made me a lot happier.

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