The Blog

When It's Time to Plan Less and Surrender More

If having kids has taught me anything, it's the utter unpredictability of any given moment. Unwittingly they have taught (or forced - depending on the day) me to accept that I am not entirely in control.

I'm starting to practice the art of surrender. There's something a bit magical about waking up in the morning in the full and certain knowledge that you have no idea at all how the day is going to unfold. Even if you know exactly where it is you'll be going, and what it is you'll be doing there, you still have absolutely no idea how it is you're going to experience any of it.

If having kids has taught me anything, it's the utter unpredictability of any given moment. Unwittingly they have taught (or forced - depending on the day) me to accept that I am not entirely in control. And its taken years of repetition for me to start accepting that even if I've planned the heck out of a day, it can easily turn into a completely different experience than the one I'd envisaged. And its taken even longer for me to get that the more tightly I hang on to the way I want it to be, then something in my super tight grip will ensure that it will turn out nothing like that. And the more disastrous it will seem when everything doesn't go to plan.

The start of a weekend is often a weak spot for me. The start of a weekend is when I think I know exactly how I want the next 48 hours to look, feel and unfold. In my head I can be quite clear where I want us to go, how I want us to feel as we do it - not for a minute stopping to consider that this is my own vision, and that the four other people I live with might have very different ideas indeed. And oh, the disappointment I feel when (remarkably) it doesn't turn out the way I wanted it to - when the first child protests, or as I realise that my husband's idea of a 'good' weekend looks completely different to mine.

And in the past, when that first pang of disappointment hit, and I realised that all was not going to plan, my vice-like grip would tighten on the weekend. I would start clinging on. Grasping desperately at what I'd hoped it would be, look like, or feel. I'd start to get a slightly wild look in my eye as I hung on for dear life to all my hopes, aspirations and dreams for the perfect family weekend. I'd get strident in my demands of my unlucky husband and kids.

And surprisingly enough, it didn't work. Surprisingly enough, when all my energies were invested in hanging on to The Plan, I became totally disengaged from reality. Because my attentions were focussed elsewhere. Blinding me to what was happening right under my nose. Preventing me from noticing that wonderful, more enjoyable unplanned events were unfolding without my (slightly manic) intervention.

By keeping such a tight grip on the way I thought the weekend should look, I got in the way of the weekend that was actually unfolding.

And for someone like me who's got a tendency to hold onto things for dear life - physically, emotionally and spiritually - this idea of surrender is radical as hell. The idea of sitting back and allowing things to unfold literally blows my mind. And takes moment by moment practice - a daily commitment to allow events to unfold as they need to.

I haven't stopped making plans, or hoping that our weekends will look a certain way (I'm always a work in progress) - but my growing willingness to surrender more means I plan with a lighter touch. I loosen my vice like grip. I allow for more detours. I acknowledge that what may seem awesome on a Saturday morning, might well feel less appealing by Sunday afternoon.

And like all good realisations, this doesn't just get played out at the weekends. This is an approach to living. This is surrendering weekends, holidays, blog posts, work and relationships. This is allowing them to unfold as they need to.

This is standing back and watching more - in the knowledge that if I do that, if I stop clinging quite so tight, there will be unexpected wonders waiting to show themselves. Unexpected wonders that, try as I might, I could never plan into existence.

This post was originally featured on Michaela's blog Parenting in Public. Read more from her there.