on planning

Today’s lesson comes from Anna, our 12-year-old who has begun to endeavor to take care of others’ children. This is a task for which she’s been paid as much as $5.00 per hour, which is more than I’ve ever been paid for taking care of anyone’s children, including my own.

Today after school she went home with Nate and his mother. Nate is a precocious 5-year-old who is quite fond of Anna. He has good taste. Nate’s mother also has good taste in choosing Anna to take care of her son when she wants to get an extra hour of work done or, in this case, head out on a run after school.

Once they got to Nate’s house, his mother left on her run. Nate, excited about Anna’s visit, then proceeded to plan. He wanted to plan what the two of them would do, and he proceeded to list, in the steady pencil of a kindergartner, the 16 things that he could envision. Anna said it took a long time, both because Nate needed to plan this string of events out, and because he needed to write them down. Anna patiently helped him with the task.

And then they started upon the first item on the list.

Except, they had barely begun when Nate’s mom got home. He’d spent most of his hour with the girl of his dreams just on the dreaming, articulating, and writing. By the time this had had all the attention it deserved, there was no time left for actually putting the plan — not even step number one — into action.

Upon learning that Anna needed to go home and that they’d have to work on the rest of his list later, he threw a tantrum.

I was talking to a colleague today about our task lists in all their various forms, how we have lists of reminders that tell us to organize the project lists which are prerequisite to any enacting of the items on those lists. When I heard about the story of Nate, I laughed, on the outside. But on the inside I could understand the tantrum. I could recognize that his inaction was his own fault, due to his own lack of foresight. It’s humbling to realize that the same insufficiencies of a 5-year-old are those that trip up the almost-40-year-old.

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