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Executive Function

Last week I was marveling at how young and idiotic I sounded as a teenager to my grown self. This week I’m marveling at how my son’s idiotic decisions remind me so much of my own at the same age, at how idiocy repeats itself.

When my brothers were in their late elementary years, I remember a game we played. They would take a long, flat board and cruise on it down the basement steps like an indoor sled. Worse, they let me do the same. When my mom caught wind of it, she was flabbergasted and irate. Their defense was that they didn’t let their significantly younger sister go down alone; one of them was always with me.

And really, with two kids speeding down steep basement steps on a long hunk of plywood, what could possibly go wrong? I somehow doubt my mom was reassured by their reassurances. Incidents like this are proof that children lack executive function.

For the most part, Simon is more cautious than I am. But even he has his moments, and I got a gander at one last night when Simon went over to his friend Leah’s house for a play-date. Leah had some new toys to play with, including a light-up remote control car and stilts. And really, what could be a better idea than to turn down the lights and have one of them teeter around on stilts while the other tried to crash the car into them? What could possibly go wrong?

On the other hand, I was also reminded of how much smarter kids can be these days. Simon and Leah played a chase game that involved them quizzing each other about the Chinese words for colors along the way. And in her role as hostess, Leah made place-cards for each of us with our name neatly written on it and a picture depicting our interests. Simon got a train, Matt a guitar, me a cup of tea. Her handwriting is better than mine. (Not saying much, true, but she’s only in first grade.)

So there they were—two really bright kids coming up with a ridiculous game nearly certain to end in injury. No executive function at all. Then again, it wasn’t likely to be a head injury, and as only children they have few opportunities to get into trouble like this at home. So their parents, all four of us, laughed and let them carry on.

Perhaps our executive function isn’t so hot, either.

*A necessary footnote. The board in question was used to create a flat, bed-like surface in the back seat of the family car so we could lie down to sleep on road trips. Safety first! When it came to road safety in the 70s, the entire nation lacked executive function.



One Response to “Executive Function”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    When I think of the things we called “car seats” and the way children were in the backs of station wagons and the makeshift resting area in our car, it’s a wonder anyone managed to grow up.

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