Z’s hearing is still deteriorating from the car crash. I think he might be ready to call it quits on cello.
I have a hard time knowing what to say because it’s all so sad. I have to stop myself from becoming Julie Andrews, tossing out desperate suggestions.
In the mornings we walk the dog together. I ask Z about his plans for the day. He ignores me and chases the dog up the Freedom Trail. I throw sticks for fetch while he sits on the bench by the State House to rest his head.
Somehow the dog always knows when Z’s head is rested and nudges him up. On the way home through the Common we wonder, does his head hurt too much to play cello today?
He says, “Can’t I just go to sleep and not wake back up til I’m married with kids? What’s the point of plans when they fail.”
I think, look, if you want to talk about the pointlessness of plans, no one has a better example than having kids.
But I don’t say that. I tell him I met an engineer I want to partner with and how he wants to see some sort of product roadmap first. I tell him I started making a Gantt chart but then I noticed all the good templates now are for agile. And in the spirit of doing research over producing results, I read about product management instead of managing my product.
I say: “I’ve been reading about agile. The idea is that failure is an artificial construct. It’s better to just change the goal and go down the new path.”
He walks a little ahead of me to make sure I know I’m part of his problem. The dog drops a little behind me so I know I’m part of hers.
But that’s never stopped me so I keep going. “Your life isn’t over because you can’t play cello. Move the goal posts. Success is not binary!”
I talk and talk and wave my hands and miss our turn. Then we walk the long way home in silence.
The dog hates the smell of bleach. Z hates that it’s more minutes til he crawls back in bed. I take the extra time to craft a plan for my 9AM.
So he does Spanish and I pitch investors. Or try to.
Not that I’m done parenting. But it’s different now. There’s no screaming for Cheerios or Cheetos or changes of clothes while I’m on calls. I’m still close by. But when Z needs me now it’s for things so big that no one has the words for them.
I cancel meetings when Z is crying. I cried in one meeting though so I guess I should have cancelled that one, too.
But I am so grateful to have a startup again. Because being right matters. And refusing to fail matters. After spending ten years of trying to see my kids as the startup, it’s such a relief to actually be able to have one.
I spend half an hour applying makeup to my face. Then I change shirts three times, only to put on the first one back on but backwards, because my shoulders are so wide.
Z says, “Is that my contour kit??”
“I’m fixing it.”
I try to rub off the lipstick marks on the back of my hand. He notices how hard I’m trying.
The agency starts the call and hits record. I click Got it and think about how transformative this is: no more client-entitlement upper hand about what was said or not said. The account manager starts telling me the rules of working with them — she says they will not reply to any messages after normal work hours. “And,” she says, “we don’t work on the weekend.”
“Wait,” I say. “What? When I worked at agencies before we all worked whenever the client wanted.”
There are three other people on the video from the agency. Everyone is silent.
I say, “I don’t know how long you’ve been able to say this to clients, but I want to tell you I’m really happy for you. Your life is so much better because of this. It’s a huge deal. Don’t ever let anyone make you work weekends.”
They stare at me. It occurs to me that I don’t think it’s ever occurred to them to work weekends.
It never occurred to me to not work weekends. And I realized how long I’ve been waiting for this — for my kids to be old enough for me to do another company. So that I can finally start working weekends again.