Automatic work-avoidance system

“Where did the boy go?” That is a frequent question in our household when it is time for everyone to work. I understand how our son knows when the regular work times are coming. When everyone has finished supper, for example, everyone knows that they will need to take their dishes to the kitchen. It’s easy enough to figure out how he knows to disappear at those times, but he can sense work approaching when there is no apparent advanced warning.

Our boy can sense things like when I am about to ask him to help me refill the log rack for the fireplace. One moment we are all watching television together. He is sitting in the chair right next to mine. I say, “It’s time to get in some more wood for the fire,” only to see the chair next to me is empty. “Where did the boy go?”

It’s as if he has an invisibility cloak, or has learned the secret art of self teleportation. I doubt a ninja could sneak out of a room with as much stealth as the boy can.

“His work-avoidance warning system is kind of scary,” notes my wife when I ask where he’s gone.

At that moment, I have a few options. I can do the task on my own. I can wait for the boy to return. Or I can seek him out and call him back. I usually opt for the third.

I’ve read a number of articles about the importance of teaching children the value of working together as a family. Evidently it prepares them for the future when they will have to work as part of a team. After reading enough articles to convince me that it was important, I decided to read articles about how to motivate children to do it.

My favorite article said that I should try to “inspire” the children to want to do things to help the family. There was a list of ideas that all sounded very good. I can imagine some kind of magical nanny actually making these ideas work. For a mere mortal like me, who can’t quite figure out how his son knows that work is coming, the ideas fell flat.

I set off to find the boy, and ask him to help. “Where are you?”

“In my room reading,” he replies. “I decided I’d rather read than watch T.V.”

I’ll give him points for wanting to read. If he was not an avid reader, I would probably let him stay in his room reading, but he reads two or three fairly long books each week.

“I need some help,” I respond. “Give me a hand, then you can go back to reading.”

He drags himself from his room to help. “How do you do that?” I ask.

“Do what?”

“How do you disappear when it’s time to work?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “I just wanted to read.”

I believe him, but he is still going to have to help.

RJ Johnson

I have been a priest for 16 years.  I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010.  If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.

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Volume 8, Issue 2, Posted 9:53 AM, 01.19.2016