Friday, September 5, 2008

Work is a Four-Letter Word

Work is a four letter word both literally and almost always figuratively. And yet, it has to be done despite how many one-fingered salutes we want to give it. Sometimes you get lucky and feel like you have accomplished something with your day when the work is done. Other times, you're just glad to have it over so you can cuss out the fact that you had to do it at all, and do your best to keep out of your thoughts that you will have to do the same expletive-deleted job again tomorrow, or next week, or whenever... because the other thing about work, is that there is always more to do.

I have tried to instill in my daughter (and I will do the same with my son when he's old enough to understand) that work comes first. I have done this with my words as well as my actions for as long as I can remember--once the concept finally sunk into my hard-headed skull. So I was surprised to find out last week that she had been given a state report two weeks earlier and it wasn't even close to finished. It was two days from the due date when my ex found out about it and relayed the information to me. I could tell he was exasperated from the whole situation.

For the many not-nice things I can say about my ex, not paying attention when it comes to our daughter's education would never once be included in the list. He is excellent in that respect, partially because he was raised by an elementary school teacher mother. So, when Josie dropped this little bombshell on him he was stunned and so ticked-off about this that he had to vent, and I got the call. He had managed to keep from exploding on her, but she got quite a talking to in his consummate guilt-trip salesman style, and he was still wound up. He relayed how she spent the last two weekends at the pool or out playing with friends all the while knowing about this report and he was beside himself because he would have taken her to the library over one if not both weekends so she could do what she needed to with books and computers.

He said that he had talked to her at length about this work ethic not cutting it. How if she got an F on the report that she deserved it because F equals zero, and that's how much effort she had put into getting this thing done. When I spoke to her, I added that as hard as 5th grade seems to her, this is as easy as it's ever going to be for the rest of her academic career, especially considering that she has been going on with single-minded determination for the last 4 years about how she's going to college and will be a doctor. By her age I had over 15 different career paths chosen including ballerina, singer and teacher. She only ever had the one; doctor. And at almost 10 years old, she is well aware that this means an extra 4 years of medical school and a residency to follow. So, for the last two years, since honor roll was introduced in 3rd grade, she has made sure that she's been on it. I explained that this was an issue of time management, and that she had to get that part of her study habits in order or doctor was out of the question. Not to mention that the rest of her life would just be more difficult in general. Time management was the key to her attaining her goals.

I spoke to her about how I always, always, always stressed to her the concept of work comes first and when I asked her to tell me why (because I also always told her why...), she answered with a bored, sullen, "because work is more important." I couldn't believe it! That was SO not the answer that I had been giving her for forever.

"No!" I quickly and emphatically replied. "It's because if you do the work first, then you can enjoy your playtime without the work that you didn't do hanging over your head. Playtime is just as important as work, it's how a person keeps their skull screwed on straight. But you can't enjoy downtime fully if you have 'have to's' left to do, and you won't get as much benefit from whatever you are doing to relax and enjoy yourself." So she assured me that she understood and I could tell that she was relieved that it was an answer that didn't negate the play ethic. She promised to get the report done on time (which she did), and to never make the same mistake of poor scheduling again.

The next day, I found my own words ringing in my ears as I tried to pass the sink full of dishes on the way to the computer. Doesn't matter who you are, being right sucks sometimes. And work is still a four-letter word.

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