The first rule of Project May-hem is “always commiserate about Project May-hem”

In my twenties, if you said “Project Mayhem” to me, it conjured up images of Brad Pitt wearing a grungy pink robe to ironic perfection in the movie “Fight Club.”  His character, Tyler Durden rebelled against “the man” and rejected society’s definition of success.  I don’t need no stinkin’ IKEA, either, Tyler!

Now, two decades later, if you say “Project Mayhem” to me, it conjures up the wild-eyed panic that means I am a POSAC (Parent of School-Aged Children) and the school year is ending.  I’m wearing that grungy pink robe without a hint of irony in the school drop-off line (and a trip to IKEA sounds lovely, thank you).

The end of the school year, for the uninitiated, is chock-full of projects, events, celebrations and extra-curricular chaos that require approximately eleventy-seven extra hours per day to accomplish.

You’d think that having been a POSAC for years now, this chaos would no longer take me by surprise.  You would be wrong.  Every year, when I begin to update my calendar post-spring break, I. Freak. Out.  My first thought is always “No WAY is this all going to happen in the next eight weeks!”  My second thought?  No idea.  I go completely blank, reach for the wine and wander around for an indeterminate amount of time mumbling to myself (or so I’ve been told).

 Project Mayhem strikes swiftly and often stealthily but there are a few telltale signs.  If, for instance, you find yourself waking up at 2AM with glitter in your hair and two of your fingers glued together from helping to finish one kid’s project only to remember you still have to find an entire pink outfit for the other kid’s part as a pig in tomorrow’s spring concert…score one for Project Mayhem.  If you realize your weekend consists of five sporting events, two team picture days, a dance recital, a church celebration and a birthday party (all of which involve last minute laundry duty)… yep, you guessed it.  The surest sign is when you catch yourself debating the merits of superfluous activities such as sleep, a shower or personal grooming of any kind. 

I knew it had really hit the fan this year when my preschooler made a casual announcement at dinner that he was going to just live in the car.  He promptly ticked off his list of survival essentials that would make any Doomsday Prepper jealous.  It seemed so ingenious that I took a moment to seriously consider joining him.

 So to all other POSACs out there – if I see your wild, panicky eyes; your somewhat disheveled appearance that may or may not include glitter; your car that looks like someone lives in it – know that I’m silently raising a fist to you in solidarity. We got this. Project Mayhem will not defeat us! 

Nope, that honor belongs to summer vacation day #2 when the bone-chilling declaration dreaded by POSACs everywhere is uttered: “I’m Bored.”


This essay first appeared in the local “Hinsdalean” guest column space in 2014, when I had a preschooler and two grade schoolers. I was reminded of it the other night when we stumbled onto “Fight Club” halfway through the movie. Still love that movie. Still think raising kids is harder.

Don’t shoot the messenger, young moms, but this essay has only gotten more relevant. High School years – especially senior year – are even more chaotic. This year, the first task I’m adding to May-hem is collecting my college freshman and driving 12 hours home with him from South Carolina. And then he’s just HERE while the other two still navigate five more weeks of school, so that’ll be fun.

*The Brad Pitt image above was found at All else associated with the 1999 movie, “Fight Club” is copyrighted by 20th Century FOX