This morning when I went to wake up my 9 year-old for school, he was sleeping so soundly that I made a never-before made decision to just let him sleep. I thought….It’s December—what could he possibly miss if he’s a little late. Clearly his body needs it. As it turns out—today (a TUES) was a field trip day. A field trip he was looking forward to. Scrambling and extra hassle ensued, but the story has a happy ending that ends with a field trip.
Last week, my 16-year old had driving school twice, a piano lesson, school hockey twice, house league hockey twice, and overnight trip for a youth group seminar. On top of that was all the regular Grade 11 stuff—like school and homework (homework that I swear is at the level of my undergrad studies). His activities overlapped like some logistical matrix that made my head hurt and required military-esque operation planning.
As mom, I am responsible for transporting said 16-year old (small town life and enormous, smelly hockey bags mean no good transit). Bear in mind, I have two other kids who simultaneously need to be completely different places and need homework help and quality time and all that jazz. Throw in the need for nutritious meals, a few thousand #$%&* school lunches, tidying the house, doing the laundry, keeping in touch with friends, answering my parent’s phone calls lest they worry, calling the plumber come unclog the toilet, dealing with my faulty winter tire that’s making my car shake, colouring my roots, entertaining for Chanukah (also last week) and making dollars stretch in innovative ways—and the logistical tangle deepens. And this picture still doesn’t include work! I weave important texts, time sensitive calls, and meetings into my travels, sometimes finishing my reports in bed in the early morning hours. You get the idea…there are a LOT of balls in the air.
When I considered this morning’s sleep-in, I did the responsible thing and checked my calendar. I religiously input everything into several colour-coded electronic calendars, all synced to members of my family. The field trip had never made it on because it was to happen within the context of the school day, leaving our daily schedule unaffected. The lesson for me? Clearly “everything” needs to include even more. From now on, Tuesday field trips get inputted.
Fortunately, the balls don’t drop that often. Over the years, I have honed what we call my “executive function”— the ability to plan two (or ten) steps ahead while keeping everything in its place. This entails taking a mental overview of the big picture, setting priorities, figuring out how much time is needed for transitions; accounting for all the material items needed along the way. It involves the making of lists, the prioritizing or those lists, the development and re-development of systems to keep life and stuff straight. It also entails taking the time for pleasure, connecting with other human beings, and maintaining balance.
In this crazy, hectic life of ours, we fret endlessly about our kids. “he drags his heels….she’s always in la la land…transitions are impossible…her work is never done…he’s not staying focussed…she’s underperforming…” While some kids struggle more to keep up with the pace, I am convinced that it’s the pace itself that’s so challenging. We have almost impossible expectations of both ourselves and our children.
So, given that we are all here–on this perpetual treadmill, how do we help our kiddos?? Our best bet is to give them every opportunity to hone those executive functions. Planning, organizing, time management and self-regulation skills—the most important skills our children need are so often overlooked. We leave it to chance that they will develop with maturity, but some people will never develop these skills through osmosis. Like mathematical formulas, they need to be taught.
We encourage you to register your little people (or yourselves) for ControlCentre workshops. We will help your family to make it all feel more manageable and keep those balls from hitting the ground. After all, we all need all the help we can get! www.controlcentre.ca