Work, By Any Other Name…

On day 402 of winter break (or maybe it just seemed like it because there had been so many snow days tacked to the beginning), I lost my patience. Granted, I lose my patience as much as the next gal. But this time I LOST my patience. It was gone. Nowhere to be found. Like, gone forever. (My husband assured me it would return but I detected a barely perceptible glimmer of “I hope” in his confident assertion.)

Perhaps it was because we were up too late. Or because my plate was particularly full. Or because I had a few chores still to do before I could retire (It’s probably not a good idea to leave chicken broth innards out overnight. The cat’s good, but she’s likely not that good.)

Perhaps it was exacerbated by seeing the immovable lump on the couch for 3 weeks in a row, the tell-tale power cord seemingly plugged into his side.

The irony of course is that the monkey was reading when I yelled at him. But even that only stopped this crazed mama for a second. “I’m doing all this work and you aren’t helping at all!”

Now, a smarter child, a younger child, a child that yesterday looked remarkably like this one, would have said, “How can I help?” But my middle-schooler, who was himself up too late and needing to get back into a routine more than he realized, decided to take a different tack.

“I was reading. I’m not allowed to read?”

A reasonable defense if (A) he couldn’t see my face and (B) he didn’t have the tone.

If you’re a parent, you know the tone. Who am I kidding? If you’re a teen or have ever been a teen or have ever seen one on TV, you know the tone.

Attempting, unsuccessfully, to hold onto my fleeing patience, I reiterated that I was working hard and that he had not been working at all. And then it happened.

The monkey proceeded to tell me that he had been working all day, too – reading and playing computer games and watching videos.

Yep.

After picking my jaw off the floor, I asked him to leave my presence.

This explains some of the students in my college classes. This explains the state of our society today. For all I know, this may even explain the disappearance of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

My son had made the mistake that many of us make: that being busy is the same as working. It is not.

Work implies that something has been produced. Granted, sometimes what has been produced is intangible – a customer service rep or waitress knows that although the only tangible thing she’s produced by the end of the day is sweat, she has done so by taking care of other people’s needs, which counts as work.

Now, intelligent people may disagree about the specifics of what constitutes work. But know this: No matter how many times you launch a digitized bird across the screen, and no matter how much your accuracy improves, it is still. not. work.

The monkey and I have since made up, but there is a bigger lesson at stake. One which will be doled out over the next 10 years or so – though he can expect a big dose here pretty soon.

In fact, there is a whole lot of “work” to be raked in the back yard. Maybe he’ll even find my patience out there.

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