How does “I can do it myself!” at three years old transmute into “Can you do it for me?” at thirteen?

At three I got reproached and pushed away for trying to help them perform a task. At thirteen I am implored to do it for them!

When they were little I thought I could surely cultivate this “do it myself” attitude into the formation of self-sufficient, self-actualized young adults.

But, now at thirteen and fourteen they’ve become helpless and dependent. And, they want me to do everything for them.

And, regretably, I do!

What has happened to them in that decade between three and thirteen?

What about self-sufficiency? What about self-actualization? What about becoming independent human beings?

And, by-the-way, how did they get so good at exploitation?

It seems there may have been some miscalculations in my parenting efforts. Or, as teenagers have they just grown more cunning?

In a Tom Sawyer fence-painting sort of way….

You remember Tom Sawyer and the fence-painting episode? Tom Sawyer was that mischievous boy who cleverly tricked his way into getting what he wanted.

In one of the most memorable scenes from Mark Twain’s, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the orphaned Tom was tasked by his Aunt Polly to whitewash their fence as a punishment for skipping school and lying about it. Tom persuades his friends to paint the fence for him because he made them believe that it was an enjoyable and special task.

“Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash.”


Today we call the practice of passing individual tasks or business processes over to a third-party outsourcing. And, it seems the kids have figured out they can outsource their tasks back on me by making me feel like it’s my responsibility to do it for them.

And, like Tom, they have somehow learned to outsource with reluctance on their face and alacrity in their heart. They have mastered the skill of looking unwilling to hand their task off to me while deriving great satisfaction in their ability to talk me into doing it for them.

Hmmm…. maybe they aren’t as underdeveloped as I would like to think!

P.S. You should also read I Can Do It Myself!

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