The Overachiever’s Fathers Day

Doesn’t look like all that much, does it?

I have this recurring dream. In it, it’s opening night of a big performance, and I have the lead (or at least, a major role). I’m standing in the wings, made up and ready for my big entrance, when I realize I never studied the script. I don’t know my lines.

In the past week I realized the meaning of that dream. Five days before Father’s Day, I realized I wanted to do something to make his day as special as he tried to make mine, but except for the list of songs I wanted to download for a compilation, I hadn’t even brainstormed the holiday yet. So I went online and found homemade crafts that looked within reach, and on Wednesday I took the kids to Hobby Lobby to shop for materials.

(Note to self: four children + Hobby Lobby = potential for costly breakage and frequent escapes = Very.Bad.Idea.)

Then again, most of the work went into this.

Then came three days of craziness, in which every spare moment was devoted to cutting paper ties, painting wooden letters, making cards, and knock-down, drag-out fights with the computer. (I thought it was supposed to be easy to buy, download and burn music!)

Of course, last week was also my grandmother’s 97th birthday, and for our field trip we went to see her and then ride the tractor with Grandpa, who was planting soybeans. Even out in the field, I was taking pictures for Fathers Day gifts…while my blood sugar nosedived unexpectedly, Julianna and Alex bickered over prime real estate in a cramped van, Michael wailed for a nap, and Nicholas embarked on one of his epic nosebleeds. Yes, all of that going on simultaneously.

Did I mention I have two big deadlines next week?

As the dream-familiar panic of standing in the wings unprepared for curtain call bled into my waking hours, I recognized myself at last: I am a classic overachiever.

(Really? you’re all saying. This is supposed to be news?) But how does one go about not being an overachiever? How do you shut off that switch before you hit the moment when you know you’ve overreached? And once you get there, how do you backpedal? Which part of that series of obligations was I supposed to leave unfulfilled? The visit to my elderly grandmother? Um, no. The writing assignments I committed to nine months ago? Another no. Father’s Day gifts? Is it really an option at all to shrug and say, Well, I’m really far too busy to do anything to make your day of appreciation special. Sorry, kids, all those gifts you were excited about making for Daddy are just going to have to go bye-bye.

No way.

Sometimes you just have to put your head into the wind and do it. Go without sleep. And make a mental note to aim a little realistically for the next performance holiday.

All that work? Totally worth it. I love this gift.