Then we started having to go to Chicago a third day a week for cello lessons, which put us at 24 hours a week in the car. At the same time, I had to start pitching investors all over the US in order to raise another round of funding.
I was still doing okay.
But then my older son started running into executive function problems with his school work, which forced me to realize that I was not paying enough attention to him. I was making everything work by sort of hoping he could take care of himself.
[Insert self-flagellation here.]
Managing executive function is hard for me, because I have none. So it should have been obvious to me that this would happen. But I was just sort of hoping that if I ignored the obvious it would go away.
Executive function: It’s very difficult for me to tell what is most important in any given time. And that’s true for my son as well. I knew we both lose focus – like I start cleaning the house when we are supposed to be leaving the house. And I know my son can’t follow a conversation – like, he’ll go on and on about the animal crackers that got stuck together in a mating position when he is studying biology because animal mating is biology.
I realized that the time I had the best executive function was when I was managing a call center. It was early in my career. And it was a small call center. I saw no one was managing the call center, so I could probably get a promotion if I took charge. I wrote a plan.
The key to running a call center is making sure the most important stuff gets attended to, and making sure you don’t focus on unimportant stuff. So most of my executive function skills come from my time writing systems for my mini-call center.
So I stopped doing work and started teaching my son executive function by teaching him how call centers run. It worked for a while. I even showed him one of my favorite call center blogs – – this guy who writes about working in a call center. That was off topic, but reading comprehension is also an executive function thing. I told my son to tell me the main idea of the most recent post.
My son said, “The main idea is don’t work in a call center if you don’t have social skills.”
Great. We are making progress.
How is it that the kids both need me all the time? This is not what I had intended when I started unschooling. I thought it would be they do whatever they want all day and I work.
So I tried to get my cello son to practice more on his own. I punted on piano. I told him I can’t practice with him for two instruments so he’s on his own for piano. I helped my older son stay focused on chemistry problems while my younger son did the worst practicing of his life.
Finally I couldn’t take it. I said, “Forget chemistry. I have to practice piano or he is just wasting his time. How about if instead of chemistry you try to solve the problem of how our family is going to function when I am not giving enough time to either kid?”
Piano sucked. Chemistry sucked. Lunch sucked. It was all falling apart. And then my son told me that he thinks I should hire a call center to deal with the kids.
His idea: My son can call someone and ask them to help him stay focused on chemistry. My other son can call someone to listen to piano. You don’t need to know about music to know when a kid is doing terrible practicing, believe me. Maybe people should have call centers that are like tutors, or psychologists on call, or maybe I would just like a call center that would answer my questions about how to stop having such high expectations of myself that trickle down to my kids and make kids crazy.
Why don’t more people dial-up call centers and talk about their personal problems? I think that would probably have the same effect as writing problems down in a blog post. The act of enumerating them for someone else makes the problems seem more manageable right away.