Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 24, 2010

Checklists not conducive to parenting

By Monica Quock Chan

It's that time of year when many of us fashion a list that is quickly forgotten and rarely achieved: The New Year's Resolutions. Perhaps even more of us intend to put together some 2010 goals but just haven't gotten around to it, and come the end of the year will still be in the same state. Others of us have probably foregone the process entirely.

Yet we remain a nation preoccupied with lists. There are top 10 lists for everything from the best beaches to the most popular sushi joints. Checklists exist from the exotic (e.g., what to pack for a safari) to the mundane (the weekly groceries), from in utero (baby shower wish lists) to preparing for the next generation (estate planning steps).

In the past decade I've become a bit of a "listaholic" myself, though I don't know whether it's due to 1) enrolling in one too many MBA classes or 2) my mommy brain forcing me to jot the thought of the moment down lest it be lost in the sea of inevitable parental distraction. At any one point in time I have a number of lists existing in parallel, among them:

• important matters

• urgent tasks

• groceries and sundry items to buy

• self-improvement aims

• a "honey do" list for the hubby

• big-picture aspirations (akin to The New Year's Resolutions)

However, it has been difficult for me to meld list-making and parenting together.

I can note when our kids meet certain milestones, or delineate the daily tasks for which they are responsible, but parenting is such a dynamic process that it makes checklists difficult. As soon as a workable framework is in place (e.g., the children cooperate with dressing), we are already moving to the next level (they begin to dress themselves). No wonder we newbie parents constantly feel like we're up against a learning curve. Plus with each child's uniqueness, what works well with one keiki (e.g., our daughter loves sticker incentives) might not work at all with others (our son tears stickers apart).

Much of parenting is also "in the moment," and to-do lists are more conducive for planning ahead than for spontaneity. When our toddler unexpectedly decides to clamber up on the dining table and dance a jig, or our daughter wants to re-enact water play in the bathroom sink, these are unrelated to my lists, yet require a prompt and thoughtful response.

Parenting is also an ongoing process. While my husband and I certainly have aspirations for our keiki, we will not be able to write "discipline" or "character development" on a list and check them off anytime soon (or ever?).

So parenting might not fit too well in The New Year's Resolutions, but that's acceptable. Life, after all, is more than the sum of its lists.