Children, please stop procrastinating as soon as possible

Procrastination is a force more powerful than gravity. As I sit here in semidarkness, the only light a reading lamp, not going to bed and not reading the novel opened in my lap, I consider this force. It might make a good subject for this column that I know I should be working on. A deadline is approaching, yet still I sit idle.

My proclivity to procrastinate is a character flaw I’ve passed on to my children. It wasn’t immediate, of course; it took time. There was no rush. Yet they’ve become better at it than I ever could have hoped to be. They have embraced the idea of putting off until tomorrow (or next week) what could be done today.

I have kids for whom the directive “You need to” has no value whatsoever. The subtle art of persuasion is lost on them. When I tell them their room needs to be cleaned, I might as well suggest that elves may appear in the night and take care of that chore for them.

Memphis weather this time of year is such that there are narrow windows between thunderstorms. It may rain tomorrow morning, or it may rain tomorrow afternoon, but rest assured that it is going to rain. So when I tell my sons that the yard needs to be cut on a sunny day, I would expect them to get that done as soon as possible. Yet the mower sits by as idly as I do.

Nothing in this house happens “as soon as possible.” Not laundry, not homework, not showers, not bedtime. Not even column writing, so it is very much a “do as I do, not as I say” culture over here.

But seriously, those rooms need to be cleaned, and that laundry needs to be put away. And none of this is suggestion. To put it another way: “Put your phone down, get up off of that couch, walk into the laundry room, and gather up your clothes.”

The only time a chore becomes urgent is when another, more awful chore, is proposed. The dishwasher needing to be empty is trumped by the sudden urgency of homework, which was something I told them needed to be done hours ago.

I clearly remember my wife at the tail end of her pregnancies saying toward her swollen belly, “You need to come out of there.” Yet only two of the four arrived late, after their due dates. They were in the womb, knowing they’d emerge sometime, in a day or two, but not if they’d be required to fill a dishwasher or calculate an algebraic equation. If those things needed to be done, then they’d be just as inclined to stay where they were. And they did.

This is all good stuff that might even make a decent column. It should certainly be passed along to my children at the earliest possible convenience. I’ll be sure to tell them first thing tomorrow, maybe.

Link to The Commercial Appeal