#2. You Learn to Manage Space (Especially When Packing)
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This may sound intensely stupid and meaningless, but it's something you don't really think about until you're old enough to start taking trips on your own: You get to the hotel and realize you either didn't pack enough or brought so much that you have to charter an additional plane to transport it all.
That's one of the hidden upsides to the back and forth between mom's and dad's house. I'm not even talking about full-on flights and major travel -- just taking the car ride there and back each weekend is enough to train a kid to utilize space, knowing what's necessary for the stay and predicting "what if" situations in advance. "It's warm right now, but it's supposed to get cold on Sunday. I should probably bring an extra jacket and a flame thrower, just in case."
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Maybe just the jacket next time.
My daughter loves stuffed animals, and every weekend she wants to bring them over with her. When I made her responsible for the packing, though, she quickly realized what an immense pain in the ass it was to bring more than she could carry in a single trip to the car. On her own, she cut back on how many she was bringing with her and picked out her own carrying case to make it easier. She has since won seven awards at the Packing Grammys.
Eventually, those lessons carry over into things like shopping. Groceries, clothes, it doesn't matter. You know what you need for any given amount of time, and the guesswork just kind of disappears, like a practiced heroin addict with a syringe full of sweet, sweet relief.
"Let me save you this whole process. Just fill it up."
#1. You Learn Time Management
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This isn't true of every kid, but then again, no one rule ever is. Well, maybe the rule that they will eventually submit to the crushing grip of a frail and flawed mortality. But most other rules are flexible.
I was once told that a good sign of success is when everyone starts demanding your time. How you manage that time will determine how far up you move on the ladder. This is important, because there is a direct connection to that skill from the moment the parents walk away from each other with their middle fingers in the air. What everyone immediately thinks about during a divorce is how to divide the kids' time between the parents. What they don't realize until later is that there are two sprawling families waiting on the sidelines to do the same, each with their own emotional pitchfork and torch.
"I demand 40 minutes for lawn mowing and witch burning!"
Holidays become a mad dash of time-warping clusterfuckery as the children are rushed around from house to house in an attempt to see everyone before going to the other parent's home and repeating the process. Even regular, non-holiday weekends become a rush, because the parent is thinking, "We have three days. We need to make the most of them." When you're a kid going through this, you stop thinking of time in terms of weeks, instead breaking it into two sections. There's the part of the week that they're with mom and the other part where they're with dad. Without any extra effort to do so, they're learning to micromanage. Before you know it, a business tie sprouts out of their neck.
Because of this, the kids who can keep up and adapt to the process have a huge advantage in the working world long before they ever enter it. They understand the concept that talking to one person too long means robbing time from another -- that being late to one meeting could set all the other ones back unless that lost time is corrected along the way. I know it sounds cold and probably a little on the brutal side, but I just look at it like this: If you're in a shitty situation, and that shitty situation isn't going to change anytime soon, you might as well look for the positives that can be taken from it while you're there. It'll help keep you sane when your mind is telling you to reach for the closest chainsaw and thickest trash bag.
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