My mother told me to leave myself plenty of time to do my homework, then I would be able to relax without having to worry. Excellent advice.

Somehow, though, there was always something more important than homework. I always waited until the last moment. Then I would panic and finally start it. Then I would waste more time daydreaming. Sometimes I ran out of time to do the homework, and I would have to spend the little remaining time trying to come up with a good excuse for why I hadn’t done it. But then I would daydream again and run out of time for excuses.

Now I’m an adult, I still struggle with deadlines. My wife knows me so well she sometimes gives me fake deadlines to meet, long before the real one. She’s clever and sneaky that way. I thought as an adult I wouldn’t have homework to do, though. Fool.

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My son and daughter have parts in the Christmas play. Parts that require costumes. A soldier and an angel. I have pompously informed my wife that we are not going to buy costumes. It’s expensive and wasteful. I will make them myself.

The evening before the deadline for costumes, I start. I have to make a hat, decorate a tunic, make wings, a sword, and myriad other details. It is an unbelievably tense, fractious and exhausting evening. Finally, late into the night, I crawl into bed. The next morning before the school run I am making the finishing touches. I hand in the costumes, shattered.

“How did your dress rehearsal go?” I ask at the school pick-up.

“There wasn’t one,” my son shrugs.

“When will it be?” I ask, incensed.

“Dunno,” he grunts.

I can’t believe it. The school set me a fake deadline.