Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Sometimes I can be a little preachy – just ask my kids. Or my husband, for that matter. Okay, ask anyone who knows me. Today, wonderful readers (and I do think you’re wonderful because I am just amazed I have readers!), you will find this out about me too.

It bothers me beyond belief when people don’t put their full effort into whatever it is they are working on. Why not put in 100% (or more) effort? What makes people just do enough to get by? Why waste talent and energy and intelligence? Why give up just because something might be a little (or a lot) challenging? My favorite quotes are those dealing with persistence, tenacity and never giving up.

“Failure is falling down nine times and getting up ten.” -- Jon Bon Jovi

“Success consists of getting up one more time than you fall.” -- Oliver Goldsmith

As a part-time freelance writer with a goal of doing so full-time, quotes like these have to be my mantras or I would never get anything published.

The topic of effort has been on my mind lately because I find myself comparing the effort Robert puts in to every day activities to an Unnamed Son’s attitude of skating through school (and life). It takes Robert almost two hours to shave, change and brush his hair in the morning (and that’s without a shower!). It takes Unnamed Son thirty minutes to get ready in the morning (one minute to shower, change, brush his teeth, do his hair and put in his contacts and 29 minutes to let the shower run for no reason).

It takes Robert four months to finish 119 word search puzzles, concentrating hard on each word and then slowly going through the letters of the puzzle to finally circle the hidden word. He loves to tell me about the theme of the puzzle or how many words he has left. He carries the puzzle book with him (along with his pen and reading glasses) wherever we go and always pulls it out in the car or in a doctor’s waiting room.

Unnamed Son didn’t open a school book all year (and it showed).

Now that Unnamed Son has graduated (yes, amazingly, they let you graduate even if you fail a class or two), his efforts haven’t improved. Okay, it’s only been a week since graduation and two days since his graduation party but his plans for the future change depending on who he is talking to at the moment.

I’m not sure where he learned that it is okay to put in just enough effort to get by. No one else in the family does this. (Terrible parent alert! Comparing children ahead!) Daughters 1 & 2 wear themselves out with the tremendous amount of effort they put into school (and all their extracurricular activities) and are set to graduate from college next year.

I do recognize there are plenty of people in society who believe the “it’s okay to just get by” behavior is okay. It is difficult for me to understand it and extremely difficult not to judge it (because along with being preachy, I can be judgmental).

Robert had his share of rebellion as a teenager trying to cope with being “different.” Robert struggled through high school and, frankly, our mom was quite relieved when he actually was able to graduate. After graduation, Robert went on to take a few classes at a community college but finally had to stop when the seizures and medications affected him too much to continue. To this day, he thinks he got a “BA in Psychology” and tells people of this achievement all the time. Of course, I don’t correct him because he put in so much time and effort in trying to take a few classes that I don’t have the heart to tell him he couldn’t finish.

Unnamed Son doesn’t have Epilepsy or anything else to overcome (unless you count an addiction to video and computer games) but before getting too frustrated with him I have to remind myself I have seen glimpses of effort by Unnamed Son when his interest is piqued (like when he plays football or when he talks about becoming a police officer or when discussing military history with his dad and uncles).

This gives me hope.

I suppose I could also say he puts a lot of effort into his online games but I don’t want to encourage him.


Joan Oliver Emmer said...

I'm sorry you're feeling such frustration towards your son - they can really drive us crazy, can't they? What is encouraging about your post, though, is that if you look under the surface, you don't say anything BAD about his character - other than his typical teenage tendencies. It is hard to watch one child struggle academically, when his siblings are doing so well, but some kids just take longer than others to "find themselves." I bet he has talents that will spark his interest in the coming years and he will use them to good result. Hang in there, mama - it's a tough world out there for parents, but mostly we get out of there unscathed - giggling while we watch our grandchildren drive THEIR parents crazy. :) Joan

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

You're so right, Joan, and I can't wait to see him being driven crazy by his own kids (well, actually, I'd like to wait a long while but, eventually, that will be sweet vindication.) :-) He does seem to be a typical teenage boy -- it's just painful to watch him do things the hard way!

bccmee said...

Your son is who he is. It's the age-old nature vs. nurture argument. Well nature took over and that's just how he's going to be. Now that he has graduated from high school, you cannot really have any say in his choices either.

I know adults who have never grown up and still live with their parents till they're old and gray! My uncle lived with my grandmother till she died in her 90s! Now he's leeching off other relatives, and he has no disabilities except some health problems as a result of heavy drinking and smoking. So it's up to you how you proceed.

It's your move now. :)

Good luck!

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Thanks, Bccmee. As a certified control freak, it's hard to let go! :-) I have to find comfort in the fact that he is, at the core, a good person. He may not choose the path I think would be great for him but I do believe he'll work it out and eventually find something he loves that makes him put forth a lot of effort. He'll just do it the hard way!


Heidi Alberti & Atticus Uncensored said...

Trish -- comparing effort (by anyone) to Robert's daily effort (& struggle) is humbling and certainly compels me to think about my own effort with some things.

As far as your son, we've all known many teenage boys who seem aimless (and dare I say, lazy), but most of them end up just fine.

Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration this morning!

Heidi & Atticus
"commentary to give you paws..."

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Heidi, I love that you saw this piece as an inspiration! That says so much about your positive attitude and your keen ability to look for the best in people. You described teenage boys absolutely perfectly. I'm sure he'll turn out fine and my comparison with Robert may be a tad unfair to him. I have faith he will mature and eventually see the benefit of hard work and effort. Have a great day today!

Franziska San Pedro said...

Hi Trish,
mmh, I have mixed feelings about comparing your son's effort in school with others... You said that he puts effort into things that he enjoys doing, right?!

I wasn't any different and my parents' belief that I could do anything I wanted in life helped a lot and I didn't end up on the street. Funny enough, my grades weren't great but for some reason they thought I was great (and they didn't really care too much about it anyways). My philosophy was "achieve a lot with little or no effort". When I found something I really enjoyed doing, my philosophy changed, too.

After all school is way overrated and I know so many people who have become very successful even with bad school degrees. My Dad had to repeat class and graduated many years delayed, decided to study law at the age of 30 and became a political attorney for the European Parliament, wrote a book and did his PhD just before he turned 60...

Just give your son love and be confident that he is a great individual who just plays by his own rules. If you give him trust, he won't fail.

And today my quote is "work smart not hard" :-)
Thanks for your insight!

Franziska San Pedro
The Abstract Impressionist Artress

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Franziska, I appreciate your perspective. My Other Brother is always telling me "work smart not hard" and he is very successful (in family life & work life). It's just so hard to watch our son take the most difficult path possible and not seem to care about doing his best(I think he just wants to be different or, more likely, is rebelling against what I'd like which is normal). I think you're right -- I have to trust he will turn out okay and end up a contributing member of society, happy and healthy. I'll keep my fingers crossed. :-)

Judy Stone-Goldman said...

Hi Trish, I relate most to the descriptions you give of Robert doing what we might view as simple tasks--how much persistence and patience he needs. I see that in clients I've worked with, and I always find it is a good way to recenter myself and appreciate the ease I have in daily activities. As for your frustration with your son--I think it's part of parenting a teen (and perhaps often a male teen). I have experienced that only indirectly through my husband's children, and the one thing I learned from observing successes and failures is stay connected, learn how to listen, and get friendly with the reality of your inability to control!

Judy Stone-Goldman
The Reflective Writer
"Word maven loves--and learns from--ordinary life."

Disabled Colleges said...

Hmm your right, people should give 100% in tasks, but the thing that usually stops them is laziness!

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

I suppose that is the brutal truth in a lot of cases. Luckily with my son, he is just unmotivated at the moment. He will find his passion and I am confident he will kick it into high gear! :-)

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Judy, "Inability to control" -- ack! I'm melting, I'm melting! :-) Tough concept for me to swallow but I know (in my head anyway) that I need to come to terms with it. After watching Robert struggle to dress (but insist on doing it), I appreciate his effort and persistence. It's also a reminder of what a crapshoot the gene pool is sometimes. I always love your comments and perspective, Judy. Thank you.

June Sockol said...

I see a lot of your son's behaviors in many kids today. My teenager just turned 19yrs a few weeks ago. He has a lot of problems with anxiety. It's taken him a long time to work through his issues and he is currently working 2 part-time jobs.

I think in time your son will find something that he is passionate about and you will see changes in his behavior. 18 is still pretty young. Just remember every child is different and they all find themselves at different times.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

June, You are absolutely right. He is definitely on hiw own timetable and I have to accept that. Thanks for sharing about your son. It sounds like he is working hard to overcome his own issues and that's something to be proud of. I have to believe my own son will do the same.