Dad Tips: Give Kids 21st-Century Chores
The other day I told my newly teenage boy to take out the trash. He asked me how much. I thought about it and told him I'd give him five bucks to take out the trash and the mountain of spent Diet Coke cartons in his mom's office. He texted friends and outsourced it for $2.75.
The problem was clear: My childhood chores (retread the tractor, build a 3-acre windbreak) were too Mark Twain for today's teenage technophiles. They needed an upgrade. So I gave my kids 21st century busy work: Chores 2.0.
Play Dad's video game character to jack him up a few levels.
I came late to video gaming. I mean, OK, no I didn't. I admit I spent an ungodly amount of time playing Starcastle in 1981, but I dropped the controllers when I discovered girls. Today's games are all about teambuilding, communication and multitasking. They're like a management seminar you can play. My son is so good at them he gets invited to play BETA versions of - I don't even know what it means.
Tend my crops in Farmville.
I didn't want to become a Farmvillager but I accidentally clicked on a picture of a chicken and found myself on the ol' virtual homestead hoeing a row of corn and couldn't stop. Now crops need water, I have to get my tractor fixed, and Maw needs her rocker re-caned. I hate this game. I can't spend more than two minutes as a virtual yokel before I want to run away to New York and become an actor. But I need those stupid rewards to beat my friends on Facebook so I send Junior out into the fields so I can sport my own CHRIS JUST FOUND AN ABANDONED COAL MINE! update.
Click the ads on Dad's blog.
Don't look at me like that. It's legal.
My book publisher told me to Tweet my deets. I don't know what that means, so I added it to the chore chart. Ten minutes later my daughter walks out of her room and asks me what kind of cerebral damage I had incurred from sitting on the couch and making up ridiculous chores. I said just post quotes from famous writers! This worked until I found out her idea of famous was anything from Twilight and The Devil Wears Prada.
Edit my Wikipedia page.
I don't know whom I teed off, but someone keeps editing my Wikipedia occupation to Monkey Wrangler. If I ever catch the guy, I'm gonna unfriend him on Facebook. Until then, it's costing me a fortune to keep paying Junior to fix it.
Maintain my Facebook connections.
I have something like 890 friends on Facebook who I can't possibly keep up with. I pay my daughter to go through and post canned responses to all my friends' urgent postings of "sitting in Starbucks" or "what's up with Fringe?" She can post "OMG LOL!" and "You Go Girl and/or Dude!"
Maybe my kids won't know how to mow grass, prune a hedge or change a tire, but they're learning real-world skills. And I can put their allowance on PayPal.
Christopher Garlington's stories have appeared in several magazines, and his short-story collection, King of the Road, is available on Amazon.com. He also writes an anti-parenting blog, "Death by Children."