Ann Jamison essays

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“I hate being competitive,” I tell my husband.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! Well, I mean. Yeah. Of course. I’m way less competitive than most other people.”

“Uh, okay,” he says. “So… you’ve won at being uncompetitive?”

I play punch him in the arm and reach for another towel from the mountain of laundry we are trying to fold together.

My inward smugness at being sure I’m folding faster than him is immediately followed by the sharp pang of realizing he is totally and completely right.

So fine. There it is. I’m much more competitive than I like to admit. I play to win and I’m not ashamed to say that I am that person who, like my father before me, creates vacation itineraries that ensure we succeed at seeing everything a person must before we head home. (These itineraries may or may not be presented to fellow travelers in plastic portfolio covers en route to our destination.)

When my husband and I decided to embark into the wilds of parenthood, I of course wanted to have the right itinerary for that journey too. Even now, over two years in, I am forever attempting to stay one step ahead of my bright, boisterous son. For nearly every situation I have a plan A, B, and C. And just when I think I know what I’m doing, we find ourselves in an Omega Contingency. (The full extent of an Omega Contingency is need-to-know only, but it involves a vomiting dog, a two-year-old with croup, and a stopped up sink.)

This need to be in control of the uncontrollable causes me to sometimes view parenting as a race to be the most Pinterest-friendly mom. I feel sure that she with the most organically grown self-canned vegetables on her dinner table wins. I just know I’m not getting that sense of self-satisfaction and peace that all the moms who make Waldorf dolls for their kids must have. After all, those moms probably don’t have sticky floors or a double rum and coke every Friday night.

Not that I even have a garden or want one. The mortality rate of plants in my care is truly shocking. And let’s be honest here, dolls can be creepy to people of my generation who watched Child’s Play too young. Rum and cokes? They’re delicious and Beatle-approved.

I don’t really want to knit my son’s socks or play Montessori games with him all day. What I really want is to feel the sensation of having this all figured out and managed. A feeling I am sure would come with a blue ribbon for heirloom tomatoes. Or you know, all those gold medals the parenting committee mails out to moms who can get their kids to eat avocado slices out of a sustainably-made bento box.

As I fold our laundry with my husband on a Saturday night, we laugh easily, and watch reality tv gameshows together. Our son sleeps, for the moment, in his messy, toy-littered room. There are nearly a dozen chores we need to do in addition to getting our laundry put away. But they’ve been waiting to be done for a week, and I can tell that when we’re done here, we’re both going to suggest that they can wait another day.

I am certainly not in control. One look at the state of my kitchen would tell you that. But in this moment, I think I have won a second or two away from the chaos, the hustle and noise of a busy family’s week, to just sit, laugh at myself, and breathe in the scent of clean towels. And for now, that feels like enough.

About the Author

Ann Jamison

Ann lives in Wisconsin with her husband, toddler, and unruly dog. In addition to her day job testing software, she volunteers with and is the co-architect (with her son) of many lakeshore sand castles that are just as fun to smash as they are to build.

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