Time management

7:58 yesterday morning.

I’m due to address the Torah Academy primary school at 8:00. At 8:15, Naomi and I are meeting with some of Shaina’s team (principal, teacher, facilitator, and therapists). I teach a weekly class in Glenhazel at 9:00 and another in Sandton at 10:30. Straight after that, I am meeting someone at my office. My morning is meticulously planned, and there is no wiggle room. If one element is delayed, all the dominoes fall.

Shaina refuses to exit the car.

We’re long past the days when Shaina was ambivalent about school. These days, she prances in with a massive smile as teachers, students and general staff all vie for her attention. She strides over to place her bag in her locker and sidles up for a good morning hug from her teacher. I’m usually in and out of drop-off in under three minutes.

Shaina is crying. Real tears flow as she curls up against the seat of my car.

Abi, Shaina’s facilitator, is now on the scene, as surprised as me by Shaina’s waterworks.

8:02 a.m. My phone buzzes.

A message from Chani at the primary school: “Just checking that you’re here”. Yes, I’m “here”; on campus, only ten metres from your location. And I’m stuck.

Shaina is inconsolable.

In that snapshot of Shaina’s tears superimposed over my tightly-packed diary, I recognise how Shaina has changed me. Old me, the one my other children had to contend with, would have had palpitations. I’m a stickler for punctuality and get wound up over time delays. Or I did. Standing over Shaina, I have flashbacks of heaving her crying older siblings into nursery school when I had been on the clock. I’m now surprised by my own calmness.

Nu, I’ll crop my speech to the primary school.

Shaina’s schedule is altogether unpredictable. There is no “eat breakfast, get dressed, grab your bag and head to the car” straight line to her mornings. They are more like “breakfast, actually not breakfast, watch seven half-clips of videos, sample a smidgen of scrambled egg, force her dad to sing, toss the egg across the room, get half dressed, unpack three games and then insist on reading a book, peck at her mom’s cereal, put on her shoes, eat French fries and then skip her way to the car.” Her morning routine could take anything from five to fifty minutes.

We plan our days with dozens of contingencies. Our family motto is often “It is what it is”.

8:04 a.m.

Abi has coaxed Shaina out of the car by playing a ridiculous song on her phone. Tears dried, Shaina hugs me and walks off. The primary school kids loved that my speech was shorter than expected.

That was yesterday. This morning, Shaina leapt from the car and dashed into her classroom without even giving me a goodbye hug (I’ll admit, that hurt). I was in no rush and had planned extra time to ease her into the day, maybe draw her a picture or read a book. She sensed my calm, and it must have given her the confidence to strut into school with nary a backward glance. I suspect she intuited my time pressure yesterday and ramped up the drama to ensure I wouldn’t overlook her in my rush. Although I was calmer than ever despite my time constraints, she detects even the faintest whiff of unease.

Shaina will continue training me, I’m sure, until I am truly comfortable to go with the flow.

Published by rabbiarishishler

Husband, father and rabbi of Chabad of Strathavon in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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