Scientific Justification for a Wandering Mind

I’ve always thought that I had a major problem with concentration – or lack of it.  It started in school which I would zone out during history or science, and lose myself in daydreams about endless what-if options, or whichever fantasy was top of my list that day.

Woe betide me of course if the teacher noted my blank expression and asked me a question.  How to be shown up and humiliated before a class full of peers.  I soon had a reputation and it wasn’t for my brilliance.

Then of course there are those team meetings at work.  Over an hour or so, the team discusses goal definition, project progress, moments of brilliance and safety issues.  It’s scintillating stuff. Where is my mind?  Not on the meeting, that’s for sure.

I’m doing a Walter Mitty with my head in the clouds, or dreaming of the next lotto win that will take me away from all this – or would if only I had bought a ticket.  I then have to ad-lib quickly when I’m called upon to contribute to the discussion.  It’s not easy to sound as if you know what you are talking about when you don’t, and I suspect that not many are fooled.

According to Malia Mason of the Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, daydreaming is a form of mental multi-tasking, when the brain solves problems, contemplates and future and engages in cerebral brain-storming. It seems that the brain is engaged in a lot of hard and potentially productive work.

Dream-PictureSo, to those who have previously thought that I was half asleep, not engaged, or simply away with the fairies, I was in fact not just involved in serious contemplation; I had embarked on a meditative journey of complex resolution.

Making a Stand

I have had brief words with young Donald today, but I know that we will need to sit down together and review the conversation in a couple of days.  I told him about receiving the letter from school, and how disappointed I was to learn of his less-than-satisfactory attendance record.

I explained that school attendance was a privilege, and that the deal in our house was that he either engaged in study full time or got a full time job.  I had agreed to him dropping a couple of Year 12 subjects because I knew that they were not really the best choice for him in the first place and that there was little point in continuing with them.  I was assuming that he was going to put full effort into his remaining subjects however.

The reality is that he has been coasting, downloading and watching movies and TV series during the day, hanging out with Daisy, and driving around a lot in my car.  Any assignments have been submitted late and only with a lot of nagging and pushing on my part and he bitterly resents this ‘interference’.  My costs have increased (fuel costs more than doubled), I am no longer eligible for parenting tax benefits (as he is not studying full time) and when I get home, there is no washing up done, no tea prepared, no nothing.

I told Donald that my initial reaction on getting the letter from the school was for us both to make an appointment with relevant teachers and to see what we could do to get him reinstated.  I realised though that in reality, he was unlikely to change his ways or make enough of an effort.  Why should I put myself out for him yet again?

I explained that he has been free-loading and has now lost the right to attend school.  I highlighted a couple of jobs in the paper and suggested that there was one as a kitchen hand in the City Remand Centre that he could apply for.  On Tuesday, he must go and register at Centrelink and commence serious job hunting.  His current part time job is just Friday and Saturday nights and does not pay enough to sustain him at the moment.

By this stage, he was looking stunned and aghast.  I explained that there were some options.  He could look for other study options and gain skills that would assist him in the search for work.  I would accept that.  He could also go and work for his donor father as a labourer.  This would be very hard work, 7 days per week and would mean moving interstate.  I would give him until the end of October to have something in place – job or study or combination thereof.  Otherwise, it would be time that he moved out and made his own arrangements but that I was not prepared to let things continue as they had to date.

Unfortunately, the phone rang (land line) in the middle of this conversation at a crucial point, which was a bit of an unfortunate interruption, but I cut the caller off and picked up the thread as best I could.  Donald retreated to his room and I tried to get on with a handyman job in my laundry, installing brackets and shelving.  I couldn’t really focus however as I was so churned up over having to say what I did.  I didn’t get half as much done as I should have and will have to finish it tomorrow.

Perhaps some time in the garden will blow the cobwebs away.  I know however that I will have to repeat this conversation because unless I keep pushing, none of the required action will happen.  Donald’s strategy will be that I will be too busy to enforce my stand and if he keeps really quiet, I will just forget or whatever.  The battle, for that is what it feels like to me, is not over yet.

Exasperation

Received a letter from Donald’s school yesterday to say that he has been withdrawn from one of his Year 12 subjects due to lack of attendance.  He has submitted assignments but has not maintained the required attendance.  This happened some months ago also (same subject) and I talked the teacher into taking him back.  I thought that he was attending classes now but clearly that wasn’t the case.

I am so cross, as for the sake of sitting through only a handful of classes, he has blown a year’s study.   I have done my bit for him in relation to this subject so if he wants to salvage the situation it is now up to him.  When I asked him for an explanation, he said he thought that as long as he submitted his work (all past the due dates of course) then he could get away without attending the classes, which he found too boring.  Der!!!  Like regulations don’t apply to him!  I doubt that he will get around to approaching his teacher as he doesn’t really stir himself in these situations, and always has an excuse as to why the teacher was unreasonable and probably wouldn’t listen to him anyway.  I hope that he surprises me though.

*******

Three days later.  I left this post in draft form as I have had such a busy week.  Came home tonight to find another letter from the school, referring to inadequate attendance for another subject – one which he is supposed to enjoy.  Daisy also attends this class and I thought that they were both attending together – the one subject for which they were maintaining attendance.  Just as well he is at work tonight as I would probably say things that I might regret later.

I am torn on treatment of this issue.  One view is to just let him crash and burn.  Donald must learn his own lessons and then figure out how to extricate himself from the bog hole in which he finds himself.  Another part of me says that this simply is not good enough and he needs to man up and learn some self-discipline and develop some moral fibre and backbone.  He is so feckless.  I should make him finish the last term of school and attend every day that he should (how I would do that I don’t quite know).

I have tried very hard not to be a helicopter parent, though probably out of frustration at his continual lack of progress over the years, I have helped him out more than I should.  That means he hasn’t confronted consequences enough.  When we discuss the implications of his actions (or inaction) Donald has a tendency not to accept what I say and to only believe in his own truths, even though they are based on heresay or his own limited experience and un-researched opinion.

As an implication for me (a sole parent) I must support him longer when he repeats school, accepting the resultant financial cost.  There has also been the time and input requirement as I have monitored deadlines, edited assignments and encouraged, pushed and cajoled.  Now we are facing another year of this process.  Ideally, he would have finished Year 12 and would be embarking on a character-forming Gap Year, as he is not ready for any form of post-secondary study.

I am experiencing frustration at the sheer stupidity of it – for the sake of a few hours sitting in class, he has blown a whole year’s worth of study.  If I express these opinions of course, then I am imposing my views or expectations on him and making his life miserable.  At least I give him something to complain to Daisy about.

Donald has totally embraced Daisy and her needs.  His life has been adapted around hers and she seems to fill a basic need that he has to be needed and to be supportive.  I know that this is understandable for a young person on the cusp of adulthood but it appears to me that he is subjugating his needs for hers.

It makes me start to ask questions of myself.  Has our two-person family unit left a gaping hole in his life and emotional well-being?  If Donald had grown up with two parents, would he have had more self-assurance and confidence in himself?  Would he have developed more emotional resilience?  These are impossible questions for me to answer, but they lurk at me through sleepless nights.