“I don’t want to, but I will.”

This is my son’s new catchphrase. I ask him, “Can you empty the dishwasher?” and he answers, “I don’t want to, but I will.” I ask him, “Can you pick up the towels from the bathroom floor?” and he says, “I don’t want to, but I will.” I pose a variety of questions, asking him to practice his trumpet/clean his room/walk the dog/brush his teeth/put away his pile of clean clothes, and I get the same answer: “I don’t want to, but I will.”

Part of me appreciates the kid’s honesty. I mean, who really does want to do chores? People who are not lazy, TV-watching slugs like me, who hope against hope that house cleaning fairies really do exist and are about to make themselves known, that’s who.

Even so I wonder, is this the kind of honesty that borders on flip disrespect? I ask myself, would Mayberry’s Aunt Bea accept such an answer from Opie? Would she, as I do, just give a laugh and say, “Oh, you kid, get outta here and get it done!” or would she double Opie’s workload and take away his shoo-fly pie for a week as a consequence for his lippy sass? I haven’t consulted the Nick at Nite archives, but I’m pretty sure that we may never know.

Again, I find I have an opportunity for parenting self-reflection. Did I want to practice the viola as a kid? Um, that would be “no.” Did I do it when my parents asked me to? Again, “no.” Sure, I’m at a point now where I get nerdily excited about new music coming in the mail, and I’m choosing enriching, Alzheimer’s-busting musical practice over my usual diet of mind-numbing reality TV reruns. I’m at the “I want to, and I will” point. That’s still a far cry from “I don’t want to, but I will,” and I think it may take a bigger person to still do what he or she doesn’t want to do.

I guess it’s like drinking chocolate milk. If a kid doesn’t like white milk, it’s better for him to drink chocolate milk than no milk at all. In the same way, I’ll take the doing without the wanting to do, confident in the fact that practice at doing is likely to make future doing less painful.

Although now that I think about it, Jake may do things he doesn’t want to do, but he sure doesn’t drink milk—white, chocolate, or otherwise.

I guess I’ll take what I can get.


  1. Monica said,

    September 8, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Just a thought (since I do the same thing with kids and husband when asking them to do tasks), try phrasing it different …instead of saying can you empty the dishwasher (which can make it sound like he has an option, right?) reword it to say I really need help around the house and I’d like you to empty the dishwasher. Men and boys need things spelled out. I’ve learned this over the years mostly with my big boy husband and I try and rephrase it to say what I mean rather than being overly nice. 🙂

    • scheirmad said,

      September 13, 2010 at 8:32 am

      You are so good, patient, and adaptable. I sometimes am like Homer Simpson who, in a test lab, continued reaching for the beer/cookie/whatever it was despite being shocked repeatedly. Thank goodness I have level-headed people around me to keep me on track!

  2. Lorraine said,

    September 10, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Yea! You’re back and I’m happy! I don’t want to …is my catch cry every weekday when I have to get up at 6am …but I have to … so I do! I understand Jake’s point of view completely.

    • scheirmad said,

      September 13, 2010 at 8:34 am

      II’m glad to be back, and ‘m so glad you’re happy!!!!

      About 6 am “I don’t want to, but I will,” I’m with you on that. I said it this morning, in fact! The morning can be so cruel!

      I hope all is well with you and Dieter!! We miss you!

  3. Ed Lamb said,

    September 16, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    OK, this will probably be overkill for such a good little snippet of life, but here it goes.

    We all do exactly what we want to do in every given moment of every day. Sure, we have competing desires, but that desire which is greatest will rule the moment. Sometimes, we think we are doing something we don’t want to do, but we are doing it for some other greater reason than our own comfort or wishes.

    So, Jake’s statement that he doesn’t want to do something is a real desire – but it’s not his strongest desire. And that could be good – depending on what that stronger desire is. If he’s doing it because he wants to stay out of trouble, that’s understandable. If he’s doing it because he feels a sense of duty, of rightness about it, that’s better. But, if he’s doing this thing he “doesn’t want to do” out of love and respect for you, that’s sacrificial love. Which, if true, is reason to jump up and down!

    That’s the kind of thing I think we all want in our children. I’m not sure any of us “want” to do chores – but we do them because we choose to be committed to some greater good. Whether it’s our family’s well-being, love for a parent, or the glory of God, these are truly noble reasons. So, we can not want to do chores and want to do them at the same time. Jake intuitively knows what it took me 40 years to discover …

    I’d love to hear that phrase from my daughter … or myself more often!

    • scheirmad said,

      September 17, 2010 at 8:16 am

      Wonderful to hear from you, Ed! What a nice surprise!!

      Point well taken–the idea of children acting out of a sense of sacrificial love and/or for God’s glory is a reason to jump up and down! I suppose this is the very goal of parenting and discipline. By establishing rules and expectations, we want to instill in our children a sense of what’s right and wrong, not for a legalistic goal, but so that they’ll take the right to heart, make it a part of who they are, and do it because they love God, love us, and love other people. That certainly is counter to the “looking out for Number 1” philosophy.

      Now if I can only move Jake to the point of NOT sighing with exasperation when called upon to do what he doesn’t want to do–that one may be out of my control.

      Take care, and I hope to hear from you again soon!

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