I busted my ass as a food runner at a pizza restaurant in college. I would run up a flight of stairs carrying five, hot plates on my arms. I would then run back down the stairs and grab five more. I was the type of employee who provided such a level of relief to the rest of the staff that they'd all relax a little when they knew I was on the schedule. I was called a rockstar every shift I worked.
After a few months, I noticed something weird. At this restaurant, and most others, food runners are just biding their time until they're promoted to servers, which is when they can collect much bigger tips. Despite being the best, I watched as the crappiest employees, who would spend their shifts flirting with the bartenders or taking extended bathroom breaks during the peak rush, were promoted before me. I worked harder and watched even more people get promoted. It would be almost a year before I was allowed to wait tables.
I had known my whole life that not trying was the best thing I could do for myself. I would never clean or help with dinner, so I was never asked to do any of it because I made it clear that I was incapable and would mess it all up anyway. I would lay entirely still, trying my best to fade into the background, while my mom wandered through the house asking if someone could help her carry in groceries. To this day, I proudly carry the mantle of the least helpful sibling.
In my first restaurant job, I had forgotten that lesson. I decided to push myself to be the best, which earned me stagnation. I was invaluable in the position I held, which precluded me from any promotion. To get the worst employees out of a crucial support position, the boss offered the most coveted spots to them.
My kids are cognizant of this dissonance. They know that the minute they apply themselves and exceed mine and Greg's expectations, we'll raise the bar ever so slightly, and they'll have to try that much harder next time. A few days ago, before we had even woken up, Darla and Jude had dressed and fed themselves for the first time in history. This was the opposite experience of every other morning. Typically, I'm begging my kids to stop laying naked on the couch with their butts in the air up until five minutes before we're supposed to leave. That morning, our kids had shown their hands; we now knew what they were capable of. While they've yet to repeat this since, and I assume it won't happen again until they're in their 20's, we now feel an added layer of disappointment when we have to spend 40 minutes trying to get them to put their shoes on.
While the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the utterly inert wheel gets carried to wherever it needs to go. I have told Darla to clean her room every day since she was four. She's cleaned it maybe a couple of times and, when she does, it looks about the same as it did before she "tidied up." I usually end up cleaning her room because she's, also, a future hoarder, with her stacks of flyers and trash toys she collects whenever we leave the house. If I don't, I wouldn't be able to open her door. Her complete unwillingness to clean has led to her getting her cleaning service. Jude, on the other hand, will eventually clean his room thoroughly. I may have to tell him innumerable times to get it done, but he'll do it.
For that reason, I don't clean his room. Jude's good behavior is rewarded with more responsibilities while Darla gets to continue to lie on the couch naked with her butt in the air. It's good to see that life continues to be as unfair as it ever was. Maybe, someday, Jude will also learn the lesson that hard work doesn't pay off.