My mom confronted me about my falling grades and asked me what was wrong. Was the homework hard? Did I not understand the teacher? Did I have chatty friends in class?
Without raising my eyes from my latest edition of Disney Adventures -- and I can't even recall why I thought I could get away with this -- I replied, "I don't have time for homework."
Worst. Answer. EVER.
Mom stared at me for a few seconds. And then she smited upon me a punishment I'll never forget. "Put the magazine down," she said quietly, "and follow me."
We went to the kitchen. She said sit on the floor and wait. Then she went back to my bedroom.
She returned with two boxes under each arm. One contained a pile of school books. The other contained copies of The Baby-Sitter's Club, some Disney movies, playing cards, and -- at the very top -- my Disney Adventures magazine.
"Get on your knees," mom said. I obeyed. She leaned over, straightened my back and tilted each of my arms upward, palms up and even with my shoulders.
"This is a lesson about time management," she said. "This" -- lifting up the box of videos, novels and magazines -- "is play." The box was positioned carefully on my right hand.
"This" -- lifting up the box of school books -- "is work." Plop, onto my left.
Not a terrible load.
"You have fifteen minutes," she said. "If either of those arms falls below your shoulders, you start again." Then she walked away.
That was probably the most agonizing fifteen minutes I ever spent with books. It took FOREVER. My hands shook, my knees threatened to buckle and sweat formed on my brow. I tried to be brave and imagined I was She-Ra, or possibly He-Man. I squeezed my eyes shut and avoided looking at the oven clock, which mocked me with its sluggish green numbers.
Mom didn't even reappear when time was up. I dropped both boxes on the floor and collapsed, my cheek hot against the checkered floor. Then I scrambled up -- a little like my ass was on fire -- and did a week's worth of homework.
I recalled this delightful instance of childhood trauma today because somebody called to nag about something and I caught myself in the middle of saying, "Sorry, I just haven't had the time." For obvious reasons, it's not a sentence I can utter lightly. I only received the "time management" lesson once in my life, but everytime I start making excuses I'm forced to ask myself--
Is it really that I don't have enough time, or am I failing to distribute sufficient time to my priorities? It's usually the latter.
I remember the shaky limbs, and that godforsaken copy of Disney Adventures (which, by the way, I couldn't bring myself to make her buy me again), and I make an effort to do things when I say I will. My track record's not perfect, but hell; it's way better than it might have been.