My boys were granted a rare privilege today. They got to do yard work. Because we live in a gated community where all the landscape upkeep is hired out, they never get to enjoy the thrill of raking or weeding or mowing. They’ve even asked on occasion if they could help the workers but were told “No” on account of “liability.” So this morning they were amazed to see two young adolescents pulling out the fern bed around their favorite banyan tree. They were even more amazed to see how slowly and begrudgingly these two seemed to be performing their task. “Mom!” Joel exclaimed, “We could finish that job in 5 minutes!” “Oh really?” quizzed I, “Why don’t you go tell Albert (our property manager) that?” So I followed them out the door where Albert happened to be passing on his way to check the progress of the two young men (now hard at work on their cell phones). “My boys want to know if they can pull some ferns, too.” To which I casually added, “And they seem to think they can do it a lot faster.” Albert explained that the other two boys (still busy on their cell phones) where being punished for some unmentionable crime against the homeowners association and would need to finish that patch of ferns themselves but if my boys really wanted they could work on the other patch across the way.
They dove right in. Even Gideon managed to get a few leaves and stems into the trash can for which accomplishment we clapped and cheered like he’d just won the Nobel Peace Prize for Industry. It ended up taking them about 8 minutes to finish the job but if Gideon had been a little more focused and if Titus hadn’t left early to make butterscotch pancakes they probably could have had it done in 5. Meanwhile, the dawdling delinquents across the way had a long mornings’s work still ahead of them.
I had long suspected that given the choice, most boys would prefer the opportunity to work rather than sit inside a classroom all day. My suspicions were quite confirmed by an informal survey I conducted on that very matter just last year. The question arrises however: What made pulling up ferns a punishment for one pair of boys and a privilege for some others?
I have my own theory, but I’m curious what the rest of you think. And before any of you flatter me with speculations of how naturally industrious my sons are, let me assure you that it just ain’t so. In general they tend to do the minimum amount required to get the job done There are exceptions at times but I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that there’s not an over achiever in the bunch so let’s just put THAT theory to rest.
Can’t wait to hear your comments and Lord willing, I’ll do much better at responding in a timely manner. I owe it to you, I know.