Odd #16: Teresa’s the name. Efficiency’s the game.

photo of handful of nails, all head up

Handful of nails, all head up. (It’ll make sense.)

Do you have childhood memories of regular and dreary daily chores that were your responsibility alone? I’m so sad for you. As I’ve already said, I wasn’t really expected to do much as a child. But when I was, ever the serious, conscientious, only-child-for-the-time-being, I was extremely efficient in the execution of my kid-size duties.

A “Good Old Days” Story

When I was about four, Mother sent me up a little lane on our farm to a spot where my father was working. It was one of those sticky, hot and humid, Indiana summer days, and she figured he could do with a little cooling off. I was sent packing with a bright red Thermos jug of freshly made lemonade, heavily banging against my very white knobby knees. (Colorful red-and-white picture, eh?)

As my father could no doubt see me long before those stubby four-year-old legs could get me to his work spot, he had plenty of time to think about the icy treat that would soon be flowing down his parched throat. (As in Odd #13, this is completely my father’s story. Since I have no remembrance of it, I suppose we have to take his word for it.)

I arrived and gladly handed over the cursedly heavy jug. He poured a full cupful from the whopping, six-ounce cap-cup and turned to survey his handiwork of rich, yellow, waving wheat all ’round. By the time he’d turned back around to pour himself another cup, I had already gathered up the jug and was trotting back down the lane. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” you know.

Yet Another
“Good Old Days” Story
(just in case you missed the point)

Probably about that same time frame is this story, again my father’s. One has to wonder…. No, surely he wouldn’t have made up this stuff. Odd is odd, and I was surely exhibiting unmistakable signs of it already, much to my parents’ consternation, I later learned.

Mother had sent me out to “help Daddy.” We all know what that was about: she figured it was his turn to deal with The Odd One for a while. My father was up to his neck in a carpentry project when I announced the posse of one had arrived to help. He played the game graciously and told me I could hand him nails. After one or two sloppy hand-offs, he carefully showed me the head of the nail and said, “Honey, if you could hand Daddy the nails head-up, that would be very helpful.”

No problem. One nail, head-up, comin’ up. Second nail, head-up, comin’ up. When he reached around for the third nail, I handed him an entire four-year-old’s fistful of nails – all head-up, please note, and disgustedly trudged back to the house. Honestly! Any fool could see this was not an efficient operation, and I had better things to do. One pitiful little nail at a time?? Please.

Now, as I’ve said, we have to take my father’s word for these disturbing accounts of The Odd One. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he didn’t make them up. In which case, experiences like these might account for why my parents waited nine years to bring my only sibling into the world. They had to think long and hard about the possibility that another one might be just like The Odd One they already had. An unnerving thought, to be sure.

Deliberate Deceit

Back to the story. I know I’ve called this aberrant behavior efficiency, but I lied – on purpose. The problem was really an extremely impatient personality in the making. There. I said it. (“They” say admitting the problem is half the battle. Who are “they,” BTW??) Impatience, it would seem, is warp and woof of who I am. Just so you know, I’m not proud of that. Here I am, approaching 70, still working on that character flaw that was so obvious when I was only four.

IS there a pay-attention point
to these stories about
an obnoxiously odd four-year-old?

Thought you’d never ask. There’s way more than one! This Odd post, unlike some of the other Odd posts, has slightly less obvious pay-attention points, but it makes up for that uncharacteristic subtlety by providing plenty of them. Pay attention.

  • If you’re a parent, remember that your children’s obvious character flaws need to be identified and addressed as best you can. No making excuses and calling them “cute,” since character flaws are definitely NOT cute. (These pitiful tales about “efficiency” should prove that.)
  • Character flaws – in all of us – are deeply entrenched, with tap roots reaching all the way down to China, as nearly as I can tell!
  • Don’t blame your parents if you exit their home at age 18 with character flaws still intact. Get over it: parents can do only so much in molding your character – only as much as you choose to let them.
  • Plan to work on your character flaws for the rest of your life. (It’s a process, like just about everything else.) Whittling character flaws down to manageable size is an endless, unpleasant, INSIDE JOB. It’s a bummer. Some things about life are, you know. Best get over that, too.

Yes, I know the current PC take on character flaws is to embrace your flaws, say that’s just who you are, and aren’t you special? Oh yes, that makes sense and wins kudos all ’round. Not.

Do you like your spouse’s flaws, your friends’ flaws, your family members’ flaws? No? They probably don’t care for yours, either. For the sake of those close to you, commit to working on your own character flaws. Instead of embracing your flaws, embrace each milestone in your steady and gradual taming of them. Makes a whole lot more sense, doesn’t it?

©2015, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: "Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands." – Anne Frank

Same thought from a far wiser woman than I.