The Definition of Futile

Photo by steve_cx via Flickr
Photo by steve_cx via Flickr

According to, futile means having no useful result. Like, say, vacuuming your living room only to discover a flood in your kitchen?

Life with four boys is anything but neat. Interesting, chaotic, loud, exciting, annoying and invigorating, but not neat. And for the most part, I’m OK with that. For the most part, I’m able to see the scattered toys, papers and books on the floor as physical evidence of their creativity and learning. But every now and again, enough is enough. Every now and again, I make an attempt to contain the chaos.

Today, while 3 boys were happily making/floating homemade boats in the kitchen sink, I headed to the living room to vacuum. I took a timer with me. 10 minutes of housework at a time is about all I can handle.

My timer hadn’t even beeped when screams summoned me to the kitchen. In less than 5 minutes, my 4-year-old had managed to flood the kitchen. Water was EVERYWHERE — on the floor, on the counter, on the stove, on my cell phone, running down the counters, seeping out of cracks, etc. It was the kind of mess that puzzles you for a moment because you have no idea how to clean it up.

“Towels!” I yelled. “Get the bathroom towels”

So my boys went running. Together, we slip-slided our way around the floor on bath towels. We also yelled at each other. The boys yelled at Boy #4; I yelled at them. By the time we were done, the kitchen floor was almost clean and 3 boys were in 3 time-outs.

That’s when the word futile popped into my head. I meant to spend 10 minutes cleaning the house. Instead, I spent 20 minutes cleaning up the kitchen — and I still have a load of towels to wash. Phyllis Diller had it right: Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.

Futile, indeed.

The Building Boys Bulletin

The Building Boys Bulletin Newsletter gives you the facts, encouragement, and inspiration you need to help boys thrive. Written by Jennifer L.W. Fink, mom of four sons and author of Building Boys: Raising Great Guys in a World That Misunderstands Males, Building Boys Bulletin includes:

The Building Boys Bulletin is funded by direct subscriptions from readers like you. If you’d like the full experience, please consider becoming a paying subscriber.

“I learned a lot about helping boys thrive over the past 20+ years — most of it the hard way! I’m eager to share what I’ve learned to make your path a little easier.”   – Jennifer

You May Also Enjoy

6 Responses

  1. Oh my god are you sure you’re not my twin????? This sounds EXACTLY like my house but I only have 3!!! I say I am following a cyclone around my house….I can never get it tidy or clean…..add to that living on a farm – dogs, cats, poultry…..ACK!!!!! I gave up and at least try and get my dinner dishes done 🙂

  2. You know, it’s always funnier when someone elses’ kids do things…I’m sorry but that was funny! Great description!

  3. Jan got it right, it was funny because it wasn’t here, THIS TIME! Yelling happens, at least it does here, and hey, sometimes after the yelling the laughing sets in, because it is futile, and the kitchen floor did indeed get cleaned up. Great posting material if nothing else!

  4. Yeah, it’s funny when it’s someone else’s boys, someone else’s kitchen, and someone else’s towels. I’m sure you’ve already decided that the bathtub (or the wading pool) would be the best location next time…

    When mine were little, I attempted to keep the living room neat. All toys in the den. That way I could escape there and, for a few minutes, pretend the rest of the house looked like that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Building Boys: Raising Great Guys in a World That Misunderstands Males

Building Boys

You can purchase the newest book from Building Boys at the following websites: