The delegation failure.

It’s been an amusing thing to watch my two boys respond (or not respond, depending on how you look at it) this afternoon to the instructions given to them—clean up your toys in the living room before dinner. That was at 4:45 pm. It’s 6 pm now. Living room, not clean.

My wife and I have been sitting in the adjacent room watching the drama unfold, reminiscing about the college days when writing a two-page paper took five hours to finish. You can’t start without a cup of coffee, so you go to make that in the kitchen. When you get there you realize your favorite show is on, so you sit down to watch. The coffee maker beeps, so you go back to the kitchen, grab your cup of Joe, and head back to the computer to write. But it’s then you realize you’re hungry, so you head back to the kitchen to make a snack. Food in hand, you sit down to the desk and realize you have a message on Instant Messenger. You go back and forth for an hour with your friend, then realize the only thing you’ve got written is the title. Re-focus.

So in the hour-and-a-half since we began “cleaning” here’s what we’ve got: Benjamin came to me and said, “Dad, Martyn won’t pick up.” To which I replied, “Well, what are you doing?” “I’m telling him to clean up. But he hasn’t done anything yet.” Hold back laughter, send him back in for another round.

I heard him in the other room, talking to himself. “This is ridiculous. We’ll never get this room cleaned up. I need more people to tell what to do than just Martyn. And he’s not even cleaning.” Apparently it did not occur to him that he could pick up a few toys himself. In his mind there is a clear division of labor: Martyn does all the work and I tell him what to do. Easy enough.

A few minutes later Benjamin stuffs a pillow under his shirt and says to his brother, “Hey, Martyn, look at this. I’ve got a real live baby in my stomach.” Martyn gives it a feel, then Benjamin takes off running, evading his brother with glee like a crook in a stolen getaway car. Martyn starts whining and shouts with that great Churchill-looking pout, “But I wanna see Bebe’s baby!”

Pull O.J. out of his white Bronco escape ride, console the two-year-old Oscar winner for most overdone role in a movie, and send back in for more “cleaning.” Giggling and laughter heard in the other room, comments about peeing on each other, and again the moment when it’s clear nothing is being done. Well, nothing productive.

Then the five-year-old lawyer shows up. “Hey, daddy, how’s it going? I have something I need you to do real quick, can you help me?” Completely not sold, I listen on. “What do you want me to do?” “Well, if you could just put a few toys away for me, I think we’d be done quicker.” “Oh, so you want me to do it for you?” “Well, technically, I just need you to put the toys away.” I’m so glad he’s picked up the use of the word “technically.” So helpful.

Part of me thinks we told them to clean by themselves for the sheer entertainment value. At least that’s what I like to think, otherwise I’m faced with the possibility that I was delusional enough to think a two- and five-year-old would get it done in a timely manner. One parting laugh:

When mommy asked, after overseeing the final cleanse, “Okay, who’s in charge now?” Martyn shot out the answer without hesitation, “I am!” “No, try again.” Que the dejected Churchill-pout, again, and the solemn words of defeat. “Oh. Mommy is.”

Photo credit.


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