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On Teens and . . . Work?

by Lucky Garvin

From some time ago: Young Sir Garvin had a religious experience the other day.  He found a ten dollar bill on the road. Stirred to a passing piety, he kept the Ten Commandments for the better part of an hour. Then he went out and spent the ten dollars.

My son is a wag and singular wit. “I need some work, Dad,” he begins. `This should be good,’ I thought.  `A request for employment from a kid who would rather be clawed by a bear than break a sweat.’ “The Beg and Plead phone lines are now open,” I settled comfortably, yea smugly into a chair.  Speaking in capital letters, he begins, “I was an orphan child. Just got released from the Diphtheria Clinic. Only have one good ovary…”  I try to interrupt.  “Dad, do you mind?  I’m tryin’ to create a mood here. Besides, you should give kids a chance to say their piece.  Y’never  know what might push us over the edge.” My dear son confuses ‘old’ with ‘gullible.’

Could consequences be more dire!?  Like many parents, I occasionally harbor the urge to push him over the edge.  Preferably a very high one.

He hoped for great advantage from this negotiation.  So, my son needs work to do.  I suspect a thinning purse. Most jobs I give him, he goes immediately to his room and tells me his feet hurt.

I begin to think.  Clean the bathroom?  No, he just got over his fear of toilets.  At one point he had enough dental plaque to obstruct his airway, but he refused to brush because the toothpaste was in the bathroom.  That’s out.

Plus, he has confided to me that exertion [except while playing] causes him chest pains and fresh air makes him wheeze.  So it will have to be a `white-collar’ chore.  Indoors. With low kinetic demands.

“This job can’t be anything physical, Dad,” he reads my mind, “threw m’shoulder out drinkin’ a slurpee. Should be well in a coupla months; I’m young, I heal quick.” My son, a respected voice in the pre-adolescent community, understands that it is one of the daily line operations of childhood to avoid work. He is not crushed in the jaws of reason.

Doing the dishes is out.  Cailan is convinced there’s a monster in the dishwasher.  Oh, he’s never opened it up to be sure; must be a part of childhood mythology. I sense He’s looking for some household chore that will put him into a six-figure allowance. Not going to happen. It’s beginning to look as if his purse will remain thin.

During one recent winter storm, school was cancelled.  Cailan managed his grief admirably.

We decided to go sleigh-riding.  Well, he called it sleigh-riding. I call it grounds for psychiatric commitment. When I was a kid, we contented ourselves to just go down the hill. Kids today consider the afternoon a total loss if they haven’t had a brush with death.

But after sleigh-riding, there was work to be done. Naturally he disappeared into his room and began rubbing his feet with rather more drama than I felt necessary. I entered and stared disbelieving at the mess.

No one has ever made a sound case for Cailan being excessively decor-conscious.  In fact he considers any efforts to make him clean up his room, however feeble those efforts might be, an invasion of privacy. He insists on disorder with a sort of `brass-knuckles’ ferocity, telling himself he must merely keep his head until his father’s inexplicable pre-occupation with neatness and sanitation blows over. He and I have a fundamental disagreement: A personal inconvenience is not proof of the end of the world

I stopped at the door and sampled the air. “Son, did Dwayne your hamster die or do you need to change your socks?”

“Not funny, Dad.”

The chore: w had to slide under the crawl space of the house and tack up some sagging insulation. The crawl space has spider webs and a dirt floor.  Seeing this, Cailan was transformed.

“I love this job!!”

I thought he’d hit his head on a rafter.

“I can get dirty!” he explained, crawling off.

Silly me.

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