If there was one word that I could permanently remove from my children’s vocabulary, it would be will. Specifically when it is coupled with the word I, as in I will. Technically I guess that means I would be permanently removing two words from their vocabulary, but since one of those words just so happens to be one of their absolute favorite words of all time, I think I’ll just stick with the one. Besides, if I got rid of I then that would mean I’d have to miss out on all of those times I get to hear them say I already did it. And by all of those times, I mean both of them.
Here’s how things usually progress in my house. I ask them to do something. They respond by saying, I will. A certain amount of time passes. I ask them if they have completed the task yet, and they respond, once again, with I will, this time with more emphasis on the will than the I. This process is repeated over and over again until I either physically stand over them and use my powers of concentrated nagging to get them to accomplish said task, or I give up and go to bed, exhausted by the hours long struggle. If it is the latter, then the usual outcome is that I wake up in the morning, ask them if they have done what I asked, and am rewarded with I forgot.
At which point the process begins again, although the second time around it is much more likely to end in the first scenario than the second.
In many ways I imagine that this is what life must be like for a nurse on a concussion ward (if there is such a thing). You annoy your patients by waking them every few hours to ask them questions that, to you, are relatively simple: what’s your name, who’s the President, what year is this (did you finish that science project yet?), and they either reply with an answer that satisfies you or one that worries you enough that you call in the big guns. (In the case of the nurse, this would be a doctor.) Except, I guess it’s not exactly like a concussion ward, because in my case there is no one else to call—in this scenario I am both the doctor and the nurse. (So I guess it’s really only like a concussion ward in the sense that 1) I am annoying them, and 2) they’re kind of annoying me, too.)
Also, there’s a difference in that, even if the concussion patients really, really wanted to get better, they still couldn’t. The couldn’t just will away their concussions. They couldn’t make the mature, rational, reasonable decision to simply not have a concussion anymore, thereby being allowed to go home. They would if they could, I’m sure: certainly no one enjoys being badgered every two hours. No one enjoys being woken up and harassed. And yet, they can’t get away from it.
My children, on the other hand, could. And yet, they still don’t.
All it would take for them to be released from the tyranny of my incessant nagging (followed by badgering, chastising, lecturing, and finally, shaming) is for them to actually do what I am asking them to do, when I am asking them to do it. That’s it. Don’t like getting bothered by a nurse every two hours? Tough luck. Don’t like getting bothered by me? Simply do your assignment (or chore).
Of course, maybe it’s me who is missing the point. Maybe the extended have yous and I wills are some kind of warm up for them, the verbal equivalent of stretching before a race. Great: now I sound like the one who has a concussion.