Over the past several months, Lisa and I have been engaged in…

…well, it’s a thing. I’ve been struggling with what to call it, in fact. We all have, those of us wrapped in its tentacles. Darklordia Academy? Hellmouth College? Personally, I prefer Mordor State University, if for no other reason than the MSU moniker gives me giggles (long story).

I’m teaching, you see. Teaching children. How has this happened?

Actually, hang on. Hardly children, I suppose. They are ‘of age’, I believe: 20, 20, and 20. (Given that two and a half of them are my very own children, I suppose it should be embarrassing that I’m not 100% sure of those numbers. It’s not, though. I long ago embraced my own inequities.)

So, here we are: three young adults, having smashed into the unyielding wall of Real Life (‘RL’, as the kids say these days), find themselves washed up on my doorstep with nothing left but to sign the nefarious contract and enter into servitude.

It has been, as I mentioned, a thing.

So, I wake, wash (sometimes), brew something dark and steamy, and then I rouse our one live-in apprentice (the other two are Skype-based, and far from here) from her sleep and begin bellowing orders. She moves with a certain forced reluctance, as though she wants me to know that she should resent the stern application of consequences and instructions in her life. I don’t buy it. She has studied acting, this one, but she clearly needs to work on her commitment. I can see underneath her performance the quiet hope that by submitting to reasonable instructions, she will grow stronger. Perhaps even become a full-fledged adult, someday.

It is not an unreasonable hope, I think. She’s writing C++ now. It started with Python, evolved into Javascript, and now I’ll be damned if I can prevent her from learning whole languages on her own. When did she learn HTML? CSS? It wasn’t while I was on duty, that’s for sure. It just sort of… happened.

I suppose, dear reader, that I could be less obtuse. I’ll make an effort.

What has happened is that a cascade of young adults (starting with my daughter’s best friend, but then spreading to said daughter, and then to my son, and DEAR LORD WHERE DOES IT ALL END?!) have come to me asking for help in… well, in figuring out what the fuck they are doing with their lives, I suppose. The need was great in all cases, for sure. I could hardly say “no”.

But, I tried nonetheless. Perhaps I could scare them off!

I told them (all) that the rules were simple: show up exactly on time, do exactly what I say, and if there was a single failure they would be fired. Permanently. I insisted that I did not have time for this shit, that if they were going to receive instruction from me, it would mean: waking up at 5am; working harder than they have ever worked in their lives; submitting to my own measure of what they are and are not going to learn; exposing themselves to my analytical eye on whatever topic I feel like digging into (their internal motivations is a favorite, no surprise there); learning how to do hard things after years of avoiding that experience… and, generally just being unhappy a lot.

I had assumed that no sane person would take this deal.

They all signed up. I suppose I should have seen it coming. It’s almost certainly their revenge for all those years of terrible parenting I inflicted on them.

All the same, I find that after almost five months of working with them, and after seeing their hearts and minds blossom (in the dark? how is that even possible?) in response to being shoved off the cliffs of their terrors time and time again, I am still more motivated than I can ever remember being in my life. I get up without complaint, I take my Skype calls, I give my evenings over to crisis discussions, I restructure our system as certain methods fail, I seek new stuff to present to them…

…if I didn’t know any better, I would think that I was actually enjoying having apprentices.

Unlikely. At best.