We have a hierarchy of delegation in our house and it’s interesting, as well as mildly frustrating, to see it at work.
The established sibling hierarchy is in direct correlation to birth order, which I assume, is ‘normal’ for most families. I know it was when I was a kid – I was the youngest. The one who got stuck with all the shitty jobs that the others were able to ‘delegate’ to me.
My three older brothers (nine and ten years older) delegated the role of ‘gofer’ to me. They would pay me the princely sum of twenty cents to walk over a kilometre, on dusty, dirty, unmade roads, to the nearest shop to buy their junk food.
I would come home with their stash, covered in dust, sneezing and coughing, usually limping from having fallen into a small ditch. I did it because twenty cents wasn’t a bad lurk back in the late seventies and early eighties. It got me twenty licorice blocks, or an icy pole and fifteen blocks. Not bad for a lung full of dust and a few bruises.
I was also ‘delegated’ to clean the week old vomit off my brother’s shoes. He had a doozy of a 21st birthday party, the proof of which was stuck firmly to the caps of his RM Williams boots. He offered me a whopping $1.00 to do it. Donning yellow rubber gloves, three sizes too big for me, I got about scrubbing and earned my dollar the grossest way possible. But hey, back in 1982 one dollar practically made me a mogul.
My other delegations were making toast, making beds, making cups of coffee, getting the mail, feeding the cats, and eventually doing the ironing. It wasn’t much fun, but in hindsight, it did prepare me for life outside the home.
Now, I have four sons and I see it as one of the main objectives of motherhood is to prepare them for life outside the family home. One day they will all move out and live independently – eventually with a partner. I want that partner to like me, (does anyone ever like their mother in-law??), so it’s my job to ensure that my boys are house trained properly. That means…delegation.
But here’s what usually happens:
Me: ‘Ethan, could you please check that there is enough toilet paper in each toilet?’
Ethan: ‘Awwwww, why me? Why can’t the others do it?’
Me: ‘Because I asked you to do it. They can do other jobs.’
Usually, here I go on some small rant about all the ways I helped my parents when I was young – only slightly resembling an old fart who relives the twenty five kilometre journey to school each morning in a pair of shoes so worn that the only things left intact were the laces.
Ethan: ‘Awwwww, okay.’
Me: ‘Thanks Eth. Good job.’
Ethan: ‘Rylan, go and check the toilets have spare toilet paper will you?’ (distinct lack of please and thank you here).
Rylan: ‘Awwwww, why me? Why can’t you do it?’
Ethan: ‘Because mum asked you to do it. It’s one of your new jobs.’
Rylan: ‘Awwwww, okay.’
Ethan walks back to his room, grinning.
Rylan: ‘Hey Lachy, go and check the toilets have spare toilet paper.’ Still no please or thank you!
Lachy: ‘Awwww, why me? Why can’t someone else do it?’
Rylan: ‘Because Mum asked you to do it. There will be no treat for a week if you don’t.’
Lachy: ‘Awwww, that’s not fair!’ (his body now wilts like an old stick of celery)
Rylan walks back to his room, happy.
Lachy: ‘Hey Callum! I’ve got a big job for you. You’ll get a treat if you do it.’ Said in a very soothing voice, the kind used to convince four year olds to do something they would normally say ‘no’ to.
Callum: ‘Yeth, what ith it?’ (Callum has a lisp).
Lachy: ‘All you have to do is put the toilet paper in the toilets. It’s really easy and Mum will give you a treat when you’re finished.’
Callum thinks about it for a while, seemingly unconvinced of any benefit to himself.
Lachy: ‘Mum will give you two treats! How about that? You’d like two treats, wouldn’t you?’
Callum nods his head so intently he gives himself whiplash: ‘Yeth!’
Lachy walks back to his room, smiling .
Callum: ‘Muuuuuum! Mummy! I can’t reach the toilet paper.’
Me: ‘Okay, Cal. I’ll help you.’
I hand him the spare rolls of toilet paper, and instruct him to place them on top of each toilet cistern.
He opens the toilet door and throws them on the floor.
I pick them up and place them where they are meant to go.
Callum: ‘Muuuuuum! Mummy! I get my treats now?’
Now my body wilts like an old stick of celery.
Me: ‘Sure, Cal.’ Try telling a four year old that his brother didn’t have the authority to offer any kind of remuneration for this task. It isn’t worth the heart ache.
This is the hierarchy of delegation in my home.
The one I’ve waited my entire life to be at the top of. I was better off being a minion – at least there was some form of payment and gratification at the end of it!