My youngest daughter, the lovely Miss Magpie, turned 9 yesterday.
Not a milestone birthday as they typically go but with kids they are all a big deal, and should be because life gets tough and soon enough they realize what a year older really means in the scheme of things – like big picture.
So 9 years old and the other night I asked her to finish clearing the dishes off the table – all, I don’t know, 3 of them, and she looks at me and rolls her eyes and mumbles (oh yes another mumbler) something to the effect of having to go read for homework.
I understand mumble actually so I called her on this since before dinner she was reading for her homework and had gone above and beyond her time requirement by quite a bit already.
Which pleases me to no end, and I was not at all chastising her for the reading, or wanting to read more, I didn’t really chastise her at all, but I did tell her, one thing about turning 9 is she was expected to start helping.
The whole topic amuses me greatly if you want to know the truth. as my kids don’t have any idea what it means to be expected to start helping.
There is irony oozing from the situation in ways you can not even begin to imagine. Ok maybe you can but for one thing my kids are the kinds of kids I made fun of (in my head) when I was younger because they had stay at home moms who did every stinking thing for them.
The funniest part of it.. well I can’t even go there because I won;t be able to finish but maybe I will tell you in the end, the ironic and humorous part.
A lot has changed since I was a kid, besides the long walks to school and back in snow up to our chins, uphill and against the wind both ways, much of it is in the name of having and doing and giving better to our children but like so many things, we have once again swung to an opposite extreme and I am not so sure we do them any favors by being on the end that has a bunch of kids whose mothers (or grandmothers)do so much for them, they roll their eyes when you ask them to help with the dishes.
Or pick up their dirty clothes, or do a homework project without adult supervision, or anything really which requires the initiative of responsibility.
HA I did the dishes every night as a kid, sometimes my brother and I teamed up and sometimes alone every other night, true story. My smaller kids have no idea how.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
See my brother and I were on the other end of the spectrum and wouldn’t have dreamed of rolling our eyes if asked to do something like clear the dishes off the table. At least not in line of sight of our parents. In fact we would have been happy to do it, as it would have been a break from the normal stuff.
Our mom worked and we didn’t have the luxury kids these days enjoy of having our parents wait on us hand and foot.
My brother and I were what was known at the time by the very special descriptive term Latchkey kids. We were part of a large group of kids whose parents worked, and came home from school every day to an empty house. It was tough but I think we learned some things about mere survival which my kids, his kids and a whole bunch of kids now would not have the first clue how to do.
First : Planning and Responsibility
My brother and I had to put the key outside under th… never mind. After all these years I still am protective of where the key went. It was clever.
Anyways, enough times, we forgot to put the key out and when we got home from school we would have to sit and wait for dad to get home.
Ok so maybe it wasn’t the ideal situation. We spent a great deal of time alone. Even in the summer we would stay home. We also had to get ourselves ready and off to school in the morning as our parents both left early. My dad would come in and turn the lights on and say “Rise and Shine!” and once he was sure we were awake and moving, he would leave for work.
Second: Accountability, and Consequences for our lack of planning and being responsible.
I learned a lot. Mostly about accountability and something I like to refer to as consequences., Remember those ? The results of our actions. ?
- Forget to put the key out, there is no one to let you in for a few hours.
- Fall back asleep in the morning, there is no one to wake you up.
- Forget your homework, there is no one to bring it.
- Leave your lunch or lunch money on the kitchen counter? Well it stayed there until you got home, starving.
- Miss the bus (we were bussed in Jr High) and there is no one to take you to school.
Guess how many times I missed the bus after the first 5o mile walk? Like 10 more but that is beside the point…. No I’m kidding. Once, I missed it once. Not once more. Just once.
And oh yes the granddaddy of them all,
- turn the heat up to 74 in the morning because its freezing outside and your dad keeps it on 68, then also forget to put the key out and the first person to be able to let you in in the afternoon is …your dad, there is no one to blame.
My brother and I were both considered to blame, accountable for something like that. Even though I never touched the damn thermostat. It was always him.
Third: Creative Problem Solving and the Art of (successful ) Procrastination and Practice of Time Management
Over the years my brother and I were faced with a myriad of challenges that we had to conquer on our own because Mom and Dad either weren’t home to help or, we quickly realized, if we messed up, we had some time to fix it before they did come home and they might never know.
If you do something that you know for sure you aren’t supposed to, and you realize that you can fix it, you get very creative, and learn to think and act accordingly under pressure.
We quickly figured out that we could go out and play with our friends and if we planned it right (time management) we could get home and get our chores done with a few minutes to spare and Mom and Dad were never the wiser as to when they got done, and were usually happy we completed all or most of them. In the summer this was even more of a feat as we had more chores to fill the days
Resulting In …?
To this day we are both first-rate procrastinators of the highest caliber, often to the point of driving anyone else in our family or work or team near mad with worrying whether we will do our part. They just don’t get it we are highly skilled at what we do and base our actions or lack thereof, on years of experience in the field.
If you told my brother or I we had 24 hours to save the world, we would go about our business for another 22.5 hours before getting to solving that problem, especially if there was something fun to do, but rest assured at the 24 hour mark the world would be fine.
Why is this a good thing you ask? Well procrastinate and play before work might not be a good thing but what we learned too was commitment. If we were going to goof off first we put in the extra effort later to get the job done. Damn near always. Responsibility. And good bul-lshitting skills too. Which would never have amounted to much without commitment.
We learned teamwork, responsibility, accountability, how to entertain ourselves, problem solving techniques, grace under pressure and I also had the added benefit of being able to tag along with my older brother without getting in trouble for it or him threatening to leave me behind.
We had to stay together to cover for each other. We learned to cook early on and could do our own laundry starting in second grade. That;s 7 to 8 years old, so you know.
So Which is Better?
Sure, there are proven negative effects to having been a latchkey kid, but luckily, we were good kids with good friends and neither one of us strayed too far into the delinquency path to ever think it was good for us.
There is no real proof that the fact we are both genius minds when pressured, and do some of our best work after procrastinating, was brought about by bring latchkey kids but there is no proof it didn’t either.
With that I’ll tell you I don;t leave my kids alone for more than a day or two at a time.
OK. More like 5 – 15 mins, and not the younger ones, and its a little ironic cause we are more connected with a cell phone than ever. The first time I left now 12 yo home alone he was 9 and I went to the corner store, on the corner, and we stayed on the phone the whole time. I was a wreck.
How my parents did it, I will never truly understand but they were, are , great parents.
It isn’t that I don’t think my children are capable, is just that what if they aren’t? There are also different combinations of kids I would be more willing to trust and think would be ok alone for a while and responsible enough to figure out how to get stuff done at the last-minute.
For example, during a quick trip to the store in the daytime, I would be ok with Magpie and Doodle (12 yo) but not adding Bubbsy (6) to the mix and never the boys alone.
So, you wont ever hear me argue against the overprotective urges of a parent these days, or have to listen to me bitch about the laws on place to not leave children under a certain age alone, even though I think it is exaggerated because of money, like most things, but still, I won’t debate the issue. I just wonder if we have gone too far to the side of doing for them, rather than teaching them to do for themselves. There must be a happy medium.
While I am more inclined to be of the mind children need supervision and guidance to learn their way in life, or simply someone around for them to go to and learn from, I have definitely caught myself having expectations of my kids based most likely on what my brother and I were capable of and expected to do as kids.
I don’t know if my brother is the same way, I forgot to ask, but being on our own for hours on end, we became very creative at entertaining ourselves, and this was well before technology like the kids have today.
I mean not like a long long time before it but, you know, before.
When my kids come up to me for the umpteenth time and say they are bored. (loosely translated as you need to entertain me) I just shake my head. Hell yes I expect that they will entertain themselves, at least for an hour?
And gosh darn it if they are hungry, why the heck can;t they get themselves a snack. And why in the name of all that is holy do I need to get up and pour then a bowl of cereal when they decide to get up at the butt-crack of dawn and on a Saturday too? I mean come on.
Just another slightly cracked observation I have mulled over, on a day one of my children is another year closer to being self-sufficient, at the speed pond water moves it seems, but hey that just keeps me younger, right? Magpie is bright and smart and funny and capable of being responsible and accountable and knows what commitment means. And she is coming along nicely learning procrastination as well.
- 6 Tips For Avoiding Work Procrastination (bizsugar.com)
- Procrastination (ediaryofnicola.wordpress.com)
- The Irony Of Procrastination (shortwinded77.wordpress.com)
- Week Two: Procrastinators, Read This First (gratefulandawake.wordpress.com)
- List your favorite ways to procrastinate (lifeofdeb.wordpress.com)
- Little Miss Procrastination (poptropicalthunder.wordpress.com)
- An Introduction to Procrastination, Neuroscience, and Writer’s Block (thepointofthequill.wordpress.com)
- Procrastinating (elinjanne.com)
- Don’t Let Procrastination Kill Your Productivity (empowernetwork.com)
- How To Get To The Root of Your Procrastination (write-2-be.com)