Sunday, May 26, 2013

Common Household Teen Work Ethic

The Common Household Husband went outside to trim the hedge Saturday morning.  I called on our reserve forces, one 17-yr-old and one 13-yr-old, to pick up the clippings.

The teens came outside and started to work, but not without protest:

Youngest Daughter:  Why should I have to do this? 
Me:  Many hands make light work.
YD: Why does the hedge even need to be trimmed?
Me:  It’s the law – we have to keep our property well-maintained.
YD:  That’s stupid.  I don’t see why that should be the law.
Me (thinking that is probably isn’t the law, but that our neighbors would be displeased if we didn’t maintain things):  Well, even if it wasn’t the law, it is what good neighbors do.
Son:  It probably violates the Kantian Imperative.
Me:   What IS this Kantian Imperative that I keep hearing about?!
Son:  I don’t know.  I think Oldest Daughter made it up.

* * *

That’s the danger of giving your kids a good education.  They keep coming up with Imperatives other than “Because I Said So.”  If and when these kids ever get a summer job, will they refuse to make sandwiches / stock shelves / refill the ketchup dispensers because doing so violates some philosopher’s Imperative?  Or because there isn’t a law requiring it? 

I admit I got less argument from Son, who is a Boy Scout and has seen the value of hard work, than I did from Youngest Daughter, who is not yet of age to be eligible for a summer job.  As they worked, her arguments subsided, and the kids launched into complaints about who got the best rake. 

Son:  How come YD gets the good rake?
Me:  Her rake is heavier, you know.  We don’t have any really good rakes.  We’ll buy new ones in the fall.
Son:  Hey, YD!  Do you want to try my rake!
YD:  No way!

* * *

I thought maybe he would try the Tom Sawyer approach, and sell the use of his lousy rake to his younger sister.  But no, they just continued to argue about it.

Then my husband discovered that I was using a plastic garbage bag for the clippings. 

Husband:  The township won’t pick up these bags, you know.  Everything has to go in the bin.
Me:  But there was no more room in the bin.  It’s so heavy I can’t even move it.
Husband, looking in the bin:  Nonsense! There’s plenty of room in here.

* * *

Making it fit

Son was quite willing to climb in the yard waste bin and jump up and down to compress the grass and hedge clippings.   Picking up the clippings isn’t fun, but turning them into a trampoline is.  (Thankfully, a few days ago I had cleaned out the toxic mold that was growing on the grass residue in the bin.) Working together (!) Husband, Son, and Youngest Daughter managed to fit two large trash bags of clippings into the bin.

Now that this chore is done, I consider how my children are like the first of the two sons in the parable (Matthew 21:28-32). The father asked the first son to go work in the vineyard, and the first son said he would not, but changed his mind and eventually showed up for work.  The Bible doesn’t tell us how much that son argued, or whether he got to jump up and down in the grape bin.  I am grateful that my kids showed up to help with this chore – it gives me a glimmer of hope that someday they might show up for a day of work at a paying job.

Forsythia hedge, trimmed


Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Somehow, jumping in those bins make yardwork more fun, and I've seen proof that the young teens do grow up and become more helpful. Craigslist ads are how my 20yo has kept employed this summer... doing yardwork!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Your kids and their imperatives crack me up! I bet if they ever pull that line on a job, most people will be so clueless, they'll just go along with it and say, "Oh okay." Ha!
Nice trimming tramping!

Angie said...

I'm often surprised at how willing Andrew is to help, when asked. Guess you and I are lucky like that, blessed with good kids. Eric would be willing to help. He just isn't home often. He came home from school Saturday night and left this morning for an 8-week summer internship at LSU.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Of COURSE they'll show up - because they will be paid! My teen sons happily do/did scads of yard work for other people, because money talks. Around here, however, they are still slave labor.

Liz in Virginia said...

I worry that the tall boy will be living in a refrigerator box some day, because he will not be able to find work that is not insulting to his big, fat brain. And when the nice lady from the Baptist church comes to hand him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he will sneer at her because she will not quite be sure who Kierkegaard is. And they will find him tied up with his own ragged hipster scarf, with a PBJ sandwich stuff up his nose.

That's what I worry.

The Crislers said...

I hope that biblical son did get to jump up and down in a grape bin. It gives me fun images of a biblical "I Love Lucy" episode. And who wouldn't want to watch that?!