2I The Routine

June 23, 2007

My wife said, “Most of the time she seems so sophisticated, so aware of what is going on, I forget that she’s still just a very little girl.” She was talking about Random Granddaughter’s semi-meltdown about the cleaning lady.

My daughter and her partner are both very busy people, with many demanding responsibilities. My daughter has a pressured job. Every night she studies calculus, so she can get back into graduate school (so she can add more pressure to her life).

Her partner teaches little first and second grade geniuses. It’s hard to stay one step ahead of them.

Then there’s raising and caring for Random Granddaughter, probably the equivalent of three full time jobs, all by herself. Not to mention, dealing with all of her grandparents. Two of them, at least, are a handful.

Not to mention dealing with their many other friends and relatives.

So RD and Out of Law Partner (OP) have a cleaning lady who comes in once a week.

Random Granddaughter has met the cleaning lady once or twice, but most of the time she is blissfully unaware of her, because RG is at pre-school. We knew that the cleaning lady was going to come yesterday. However, we were so busy getting RG ready to go to the playground with us that we forgot to mention this to our granddaughter.

There was a knock on the door. It was Sarah, the cleaning lady, with all her cleaning tools (vacuum cleaner, etc.) She is a very amiable lady of perhaps 50 years of age. She greeted us (Mrs. and Mr. Random, strangers to her, and Random Granddaughter, whom she had met before but quite a long time ago) in a friendly, pleasant manner.

I went off in search of my shoes (the Mommies’ house is a “take your shoes off inside house” abode) while Grandma resumed the task of getting barrettes into RG’s long blond hair.

When I came back a few minutes later, RG had a look on her face of considerable distress. It was obvious she was about to start crying. Mrs. Random whispered urgently in my ear, “Hurry up and get ready, so we can get out of here and head for the playground. RG is very upset.”

Once we were out of the house, she explained that RG was very upset about the arrival of the cleaning lady. There was nothing bad or threatening about the cleaning lady. She wasn’t going to do anything to disrupt RG’s life. RG was just not expecting her, and she had shown up unexpectedly.

I think this episode illustrates a reaction that is often true for most of us. We like to know in advance what is going to happen to us, to give us the illusion of being in control of our world and our lives. We often complain that things are too routine and stuck in a rut, but as soon as something out of the ordinary appears, instead of greeting it with enthusiasm and delight, as a break from the routine, we feel threatened and insecure, even if the new arrival is perfectly innocent and unthreatening.

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