The Procrastinator

This is Norah (age 8) and I sitting in the parking lot outside the Portland science museum doing a summer workbook, the air conditioner blazing. She finished the school year a little behind, and we were advised to have her do a page a day out of this book over the summer to get her caught up.

But here’s the thing. She a procrastinator. A HUGE procrastinator. Same as I was at 8. And her mother, I assume (I didn’t know Mel then, but I’ve seen pictures and she totally looked like a procrastinator). One page should take about 10 minutes to finish. Not a big deal.

But she dragged her feet each day. We reminded her about the science museum. We told her about the big reward. We argued with her. She yelled and stomped her feet. Sometimes we did that too.

We live a good distance from the science museum, so we had to plan the trip in advance. So once it came to the day of the trip, she was behind. She could have gotten caught up on the drive, but she didn’t.

As we rolled into the science museum parking lot, Norah still had a few pages to finish. Her older brother had finished his goals to earn the trip, so Norah gave me a bright eyed look that seemed to say, “He’s not going to make me do them now that we are here.”

And I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to make her do them. I was as excited to check this place out as the kids. This happens to me a lot as a parent. I often have to make a decision that I know is best for my kids, but in so many ways it sucks for me. We all have to do this, because so much of parenting is looking at the situation and realizing that if you don’t reinforce the rule you set, the kids are going to think the rest of the world works that way.

But it doesn’t.

I ended up taking it for the team.

Mel took Tristan and our youngest into the science museum, and I sat in the parking lot with Norah as she worked through her last few pages. Sure, I lectured her. That’s my job as a dad. I told her how much easier it would have been on everyone if she’d just done one page a day.

And true to form, she let out a million sighs, and rolled every eye on her body. She glared at me several times. I will admit, thought, she didn’t drag her feet. She didn’t slow down. She got down to business.

She finished her pages in half the time she usually took, and once she was done I said, “I didn’t do this to be a jerk. I did it because I know how important learning is. I know how important it is for you to understand how to finish your obligations, even little ones. Because right now it’s not that big, but they will get bigger. Trust me. And it’s my job to make sure you leave my house the best Norah you can be. I love you enough to do that.”

Norah looked up at me. I assumed we were going to have a moment. I felt good about what I said. It was very daddly and on point. I waited for her to say something appreciative. Instead she shut her book and said in the nastiest tone imaginable, “Can we just go, Dad?!”

She was still angry. But I always was too as a child in situations like this. I laughed under my breath. I shook my head and hoped that someday all this would sink in.

Then I stepped from the van, and as we crossed the street Norah took my hand. And as we waited in line to buy tickets she hugged me. We didn’t say anything for awhile. Right before we made it to the counter she said, “I love you Daddy.”

“I love you too,” I said. “Now let’s go play in that spaceship. We’ve earned it.”

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