© Nickelodeon, Fair Use (Commentary)

Have you ever watched Dora the Explorer? At the beginning of every adventure, she consults her map, which always has exactly three steps to get to where she needs to go. A typical trek might take her

  1. across the raging river, and
  2. over the slippery rock, to
  3. crocodile lake.

Through the rest of the journey, Dora will chant to remind herself:


(I apologize to all the parents who now have that running through their heads.)

A week or so ago, I was playing single parent for 5 days. My usual M.O.in this situation is to hunker down, accept that not much will get accomplished, and focus on not going crazy. But about half-way through, I snapped. I couldn’t stand to look at a livingroom floor so covered in toys as to obscure the wood (and yet without hiding any of the dirt. Go fig.)

So I surprised myself. I strapped the baby to my back, deposited the toddler in the livingroom with an iPhone and Netflix (tuned to Dora, of course), and started cleaning.

Now, what frequently happens when I go on one of these cleaning binges is I get bogged down in ‘prerequisites’ and attempts at uber-efficiency. I want to do the dishes, but first I should start the laundry (you know, so the machine is going while I do other things). But if I’m going to do that, I should really go through the house first and make sure everything is collected and sorted. And while I’m doing that, well, if I’m going up the stairs there’s all this stuff I should take with me…

At the end of the day, I’m just frustrated. I’ve been busting my butt, but it seems like nothing has been accomplished. Certainly very little has been completed. Indeed, all the running around has reminded me of all the things I haven’t done.

Enter Dora, and her three-step process.

I decided that my ‘todo’ list was not allowed to have more than 3 items on it. Only after finishing one could I add another. And to keep focussed, I was walking around the house chanting “LAUNdry. DISHes. FEED the CATs“.

So I guess you could say that I had abandonned my mantra of “hunker down and don’t go crazy”.

But something rather useful came out of this little diversion from sanity, aside from a house that was in better shape while single-parenting than otherwise. I came up with a few rules of thumb that I think may serve me well going forward:

  1. never let the to-do list get longer than 3 items
  2. don’t walk by something that can be fixed in 30 seconds, but
  3. never divert from the current item for more than a minute.

Wow. Leave me alone for a few days and I end up with an entirely new world-view. It’s enough to make me look forward to hubby’s next trip.