There’s an art to putting things off.
When you are trying to avoid doing something you don’t want to do, you find other ways to fill your time. Hopefully other, better ways.
For example, my wife often says “I have a headache.” Not only can I neither confirm nor deny the presence of an ache in her head, making it the perfect excuse, she gets to go to sleep. And when you have a toddler, nothing is better than sleep.
When you are a toddler and you are trying to put off doing something you don’t want to do, you are in a pickle. Because not only do you have just about zero independence, thus limiting your ability to find alternative uses for your time, you’re also stupid.
I am a skilled procrastinator.
Like many Americans, I began my training in high school, improved upon my skills in college, really honed them in the working world by delaying the creation of PowerPoints, and have become something of a genius at procrastination in my five-plus of years marriage. Right now, I should be accomplishing the delightful tasks my wife set out for me in her delightful honey-do list. But instead I am writing a blog post about how I am not currently doing those things. When she reads this, my wife is going be DELIGHTED!
My son is an amateur. He’s got the “I don’t want to do that” thing down. He doesn’t want to do most things we ask him to do. But simply not wanting to do something does not procrastination make. You need to fill that time with something else, and whining and throwing a tantrum doesn’t count.
When I put something off that I don’t want to do, it’s almost always to do something I actually DO want to do, like write, or watch that DVR’d episode of Justified I haven’t gotten to, or read Twitter.
When my son puts off something he doesn’t want to do, it’s in favor of ANYTHING ELSE HE CAN THINK OF. In many cases, what he can think of isn’t even a better option! It’s just an option. Like throwing the aforementioned tantrum. That can’t be fun for him; at the very least it hurts his throat. And if what you’re doing in order to not do what you should be doing isn’t at least a little more enjoyable, than why are you doing it?
But he’s starting to make an effort, which is good. He’s still terrible at it, but at least he’s trying to come up with more desirable alternatives to doing what he’s supposed to be doing.
Last night, when we tried to get him ready for bed, at first he started saying he wanted to play. Which I get; when you’re two and have a bottomless pit of energy, playing is better than sleep. If I were him, I would sleep 24 hours a day because nothing is better than sleep. But he’s not me.
When the “let me play instead!” gambit didn’t work, he decided that maybe he would actually like to eat some of the dinner he’d screamed and flailed his arms about not eating mere minutes earlier.
When that did work (because sure, kid, eat something legitimate, FINALLY, even if it’s an escape attempt) and he ate two more bites – clearly hoping we’d forget that it was time for him to go to sleep so Mommy and Daddy could get their drink on – we immediately resumed trying to get him to brush his teeth and go to bed. So he dove onto the couch and tried hiding in plain sight. Unfortunately for him, Mom and Buried and I are neither blind nor total idiots, so we quickly retrieved him and carried him to the bathroom for his nightly dental hygiene.
At which point he asked to be put in time-out. Which is where he goes when he’s being punished. Kiddo: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.
But he’s only two. He’ll figure it out eventually. He’ll figure out that the point of putting off stuff you don’t want to do is to do stuff you do want to do. Then, and only then, does procrastination pay off. For now, when it’s time to get ready for bed, he just runs around giggling while Mom and Buried and I get more and more pissed off.
Wait a minute… Maybe he is doing it right.