I have a black, platform shoe in the middle of my kitchen.
Actually it has been there since Tuesday. 4 whole days.
4 whole days of proliferating irritation at the fact that no-one has moved it yet. But then, who would. For a day and a half, it was the object of fascination for my 2year-old son, who, having fished it out of the cupboard in the hall, spent many long minutes trying it on, attempting to stand up in it and shrieking at it for its lack of ability to stay still as he tried to levitate himself whilst clawing his way up the back of a chair, but the novelty of that soon wore off and the thing is now lying in that exact trajectory where I can kick it pretty much every time I move.
As I sat glowering at it yesterday over a quick 4pm Crunchy Nut Cornflakes substitute lunch, I couldn’t help but wonder what it is that renders us so often incapable of performing the most simple of tasks – opening post, in my case is a typical one, or spending just 15 tiny minutes at the end of a 5 day project to print out an invoice and address the envelope, rather than pushing it out for a month… or indeed, as in this case, the act of just picking up a shoe! Most people approach such trivial tasks as a matter of course… there’s a thing that needs doing, it takes no time to perform so it ‘gets done’. Why do others of us, then, suffer the mental block which prevents us from committing ourselves to seeing them through whilst being aware of the inevitable negative consequences of not doing so: post lying unopened on the kitchen table, for example, will at some point result in a bill not being paid and a financial penalty at the very least, yet, for me, there is too often something else in that moment which takes priority. ‘I’ll just finish this and then I’ll do it’ … and in that moment I really do believe I will, but the more things I allow to come in between, the more angry with myself I become and the more difficult it then is to apply myself and put the job that’s bugging me to bed.
Laziness, lethargy, can’t be bothered – all expressions I have used to try and explain such ridiculous behaviour, but an inner voice invariably defends the accusation by offsetting it against how many other jobs I actually do get done in a day – the ‘I just don’t have the time’ could be believable and to a certain extent justified, but ultimately, the task does in fact get done, so isn’t it just a matter of juggling and setting realistic priorities? Other people can do it, why can’t I?
But what worries me greatly these days is the impending hypocrisy of my own ineffectiveness – the fact that I can challenge my toddler when he throws his night-nappy on the floor and is ‘too busy’ when I ask him to take it to the bin: “If you do it now you can play afterwards – it’ll only takes a minute!” I suggest authoritatively, whilst understanding exactly that feeding a small plasticine dog Rice Krispies is by far superior in his list of priorities at that moment. So how can I possibly teach my child to be all that I am not? Is it right, that, as parents, we consistently fall back on the concept of “do as I say, not as I do?” even for the simplest of things? Whilst L is still so young, I try and justify this to myself by thinking ”ach he’s not aware enough yet to realise that practicing what I preach is not exactly my own speciality, but that it is my duty to try and set him off on the right foot” …. and in a way this is probably true. What is also true, however, is that even at his tender age, my son is becoming more aware on a daily basis and does notice and is even beginning to pull me up on small things : “Mami not talk with mouth full! ” or “Naughty Mami go in with shoes on! “.
It is a fact, then, that in teaching our children how to behave and how to make their own lives easier for the future, we, as parents are subjected, constantly, to analysing and re-analysing our own behaviour – exposing ourselves to potential criticism by the same children we are trying to educate. But far from eschewing the pain of that exposure and ruing or even denying that we are imperfect as role models, is this not, in fact, a marvellous opportunity that we are being offered? – It is so easy sometimes to get caught up in the guilt of how ‘rubbish’ we can be as individuals, but perhaps, instead of hanging our heads in shame at our inadequacies, we could simply embrace the chance we are being given to review our weaknesses, with a view to becoming better people for ourselves as well as for our kids.
Oh what a sweet and idealistic theory that is …! but, baby-steps and, between the last paragraph and this, I took the plunge and the deed is finally done… the black platform shoe has at last been returned to its rightful cupboard in the hall. Do I feel better? Absolutely. Do I feel ridiculous that it has been cluttering the floor for so long? perhaps, but, for every sore toe endured at having kicked it around for days, there is now a greater element of resolve to work on my procrastination and, in general, to concentrate my efforts even more to becoming, myself, the type of person I am trying to bring up my son to be.