How I Learned The Art of Successful Procrastination, Accountability and Commitment

Gracie, Magpie, 9 yo birthday
She looks older huh? Eating Chinese for Birthday Dinner

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.

So of course as things of this nature often do, I am plopped right in to the middle of thought, do not pass gas, do not collect anything.   skeptical1

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.

Keys. (Photo credit: Bohman)

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.

English: only a homework chart
Comparison of something to another thing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Secondary characters in Calvin and Hobbes
Parents in the Best Comic EVER! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

She wants to know if she can do the dishes, when she turns 10.    ♥   butterfliespurpleflit


23 thoughts on “How I Learned The Art of Successful Procrastination, Accountability and Commitment

  1. At least she is willing to put it off for a little while. Perhaps, she will learn to do it right the first time and not act like the husbands in my life who did it wrong just so I would do it correctly…for them. ❤

    1. that would be my eldest son – who learned very quickly if he messed it up – someone else would do it for him to avoid having to redo it later. Smart one he is… and it was not I who taught him this lesson… ♥

  2. Yes! My kids wash dishes, clean bathrooms, make their own lunches for school- even the 6 yo, she makes her sandwich and puts all the snacks in the bag herself, put away their own laundry, make their own breakfast if they get up before me, feed the dog,dust, vacuum,etc.
    They pay for stuff themselves if they want something like toys or apps/games. No cell phones until they can pay for one. If they want to buy lunch at school, they have to pay for it.
    We are ‘mean parents’ and I am proud of that…

      1. Both hubs and myself lived at home until we wed- saving for a house & our parents didn’t mind if we stayed a little longer. His mommy made his lunch for him every damn day until the day he got married. We were 22. he had a full time job by then. She made her grown sons lunch. EVERY.DAMN.DAY. That drove me crazy for some reason- probably bc my mom never did that for her 5 kids, Ever. Anyway, we agreed that our kids would do it bc he and I didn’t want to make 4 lunches every nite because, lazy! SNORT!!

      2. hahahahahahs I got some funny stories about moms – and its the boys isn;t it? I mean…well anyways who cares the reason, your kids are better off… the one thing that I haven;t quite figured out yet is …am I completely irresponsible and flighty now becuase I got sick of being so responsible? It is possible.. I remember somewhere in my 30’s thinking I wish someone else would take care of silly but whatev.. i think it was just me… I was just reading the comments on the odoriferous cjallenge I did last year.. you me and Guap..I almost peed my pants.. sorry just had to act childish and add the last part.. someday your kids will thank you,, even though I joke about it, I dont blame my parents at all and that was the acceptable thing at the time.. I do think it contributed to my being ok with being alone and which is good .. but whatever the fall out there is good too and I think my parents did a great job with my brother…and me 😉 we are well rounded and capable of getting stuff done… eventually.. 🙂

  3. Hey, you forgot that you also had to plan the family dinners. I remember you putting out meat to thaw in the morning before school and I thought, “What the heck? She lives like those kids in the 1800’s. She cooks! She cleans!” I think that’s when I asked my mom if I could help her with our dinners as well. And she let me… and I’m a terrific cook because of it… And my kids make pancakes for us on the weekends, homemade mac and cheese, artichokes, linguini w/clam sauce and other cuisines. They do their own laundry, vacuum, wash windows, toilets and do dishes and are learning from me how to make all sorts of things to be able to self-sustain. You certainly were an influence in all that… along with your mom and mine.

    1. Gosh I remember how we always had the opposite thing goign on weekends with breakfast remember? We got hot breakfast cause we ate cereal all week and you guys got cereal cause your mom made breakfast all week… and then when we discussed sleepovers – lol.. WOW I was so excited you read this ..and I bet you are an outstanding Mom and an awesome cook – you made me hungry talking about it. My mom took a little exception to some of this so .. i am not going to comment too much on the actual content – some was tongue in cheek – 🙂 I am glad to hear you kids are able to do all of that – my older ones well yea they are older and even Miss Magpie can do a lot – she cooks and cleans and used to make me coffee in the morning,,, Bubbsy – he just turned 6 so we will see.. but I am grateful to be able to not have to leave my kids alone.. if I am busy my parents are here and I feel very blessed….and I in turn watch my baby gransdon for my daughter..whoa I should told you to sit down huh? Even though you probably already knew – I mean that was weird right?? I am so glad you came and commented… I almost starting crying. I miss home..and miss you. ♥

  4. Hi Lizzie! I was brought up by parents that did everything for me, but I didn’t want it that way so I did work for them. I was the only kid that loved chores. I didn’t want to be taken care of. I even envied my best friend who had way more chores to do than I did. I used to do them with her. I did just about everything for my sons but now they are grown, they cook, clean, and keep up their homes and also help me!

    1. oh Gail – I want you to know – first of all – the commentor above I think,,,is my bestest friend growing up…and our moms are best friends – her mom stayed home actually worked from home – mine worked outside the home in a hospital .. her mom had a pretty good balance. for the most part I never felt like I was lacking much at the time – excpet hot breakfasts and I have the memory of wanting to just spend time with my mom… but I didn;t really make fun of my friends with stay at home moms – even in my head… I envied them and Missy’s mom did not wait on her kids hand and foot – I think we both are pretty balanced becuase we had both women – my mom and hers to emualte.. she took the best of my world and I took the best of hers and we put it with the best of our own and created a new way… this was so .. I dunno I was being a little sarcastic a little over the top I feel like I might have irke some people .. I have done both worked and stayed at home and the grass is never greener, just different but I do believe as in all things the human race as a whole – of course there are individuals who are able to find the balance the happy mediiumthe right mix LOTS and LOTS of them but just Iguess for instance in the space of less than 20 years it was ok to leave your 8 yo home alone to its against the law.. I dunno I think I am just tryting to figure a lot of stuff out….

      I loved chores until I had to do them too ,,much, there was always a sense of..importane being given a job and excitememt if it was new – til you realized it was tedious and perpetual …laundry for example..

      Much love ♥

  5. I recall fighting with my sister every time we did the dishes. Looking back, that’s one helluva a good tactic to never do dishes again. And hey, you’re 9 year old has a point. It’s her birthday. Nobody should clear the table or do dishes on their birthday. What am I saying? Damn kids. Back to work!

    1. My brother and I fought too hence the either together as a team or alone every other night.. we could only manage to not throw leftover food and water at each other for maybe .. lets see in a row? no more than 2 nights and we both saw how much quicker it was to do it together but couldnt help ourselves and awhile perfectly happy to fight every night …our solo acts were typically parent mandated.. it was a few days before her birthday.. when I told her to clear the dishes lol., see if you look in the picture we had paper plates on her bday – I am not all bad 😉

  6. Hi Lizzie… I didn’t feel at all any kind of dissatisfaction coming from you about your particular upbringing, so I hope your mom understands that you weren’t criticizing her!
    As we grew up, we felt like our parents had kids so there was someone to do all the housework, which is probably why I HATE it now. My mom (RIP, mom) was not the best of housewives, though she didn’t work out of the house for a good part of our youth.
    I remember when she told me at 11 that I would have to pay rent – I started crying,, bc I though she meant right then!!! I do believe basically they were trying to instill us with a sense of responsibility, unfortunately, it ended up being a dreadful aversion to home chore doing. But at the same time, I have always been self sufficient and never wanted anyone to take care of me – I always felt there were strings attached if someone wanted to do that, actually!
    great post, sweetie…


    1. thanks Janet 🙂 – I don;t feel any dissatisfaction and I dont remember feeling like I got short changed.. and there was a reason they had a term for kids like my brother and I.. because that was acceptable ..they thought it was ok and ya know for the most part it was.. I look at my kids and cant fathom it .. becasie I remember feeling a lot more responsible than they act has more to do with that then thinking it is wrong.. I really think it depends on the kids.. the facy my brother and I were successsful, no matter how we went about it.. was lucky and my parents did not have the wyas to keep up with us like parents do today- we went all over the place in the summer riding our bikes and going to my gmas.. there were times I would have left my kids home if ir weren’t agains t the law – the older ones .. I had to work and in the summer I had to pay some ridiculous amount of monet for daycare plus still pay child support.. and I worked in the hole all summer long.. they were capable of it.. mostly lately I have had like a naha moment in ways my brother and Iare alike and looking for what we experienced as kids.. we both procrastinate.. and one day i was just thunking aout stuff and kinda works right? I was being funny.. but i gues i missed on that..
      I usedd to whine all the time how kids were only invented to do chores lol .. ♥

  7. This is a beaut post, Lizzie, & very relatable.

    Me, oh sigh – chores galore. And no tennis or anything IIIIII wanted to do until they were done. I learned to ‘just do it’. I must say, I have passed ‘just do it’ on to my son, however, I don’t ask enormously of him as he trains martial arts 5-6 days a week & studies full time. He does, however, do washing & dishes, bins. Haven’t quite picked up a vacuum yet – but that’s only because he “can’t see the dirt” !!! Yeah, right.

    No, he’s been saying a lot these days “I want to step up, mum. I’m older now”, & I’m willingly throwing more at him.

    Love the way you gave headings, Lizzie, and the ‘Which is better’? Hmmm…

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