Like all responsible parents, I've waited until my kids are taller than me and driving before giving them 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 diet coke cans 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 three-acre windbreak, terraform ...) were too Mark Twain for today's teenage technophiles. They needed an upgrade. So I gave my kids 21st century busy work. I present: Chores 2.0.
Prune the DVR. I can't go five minutes into a show without the DVR's little lozenge of holy-crap popping up to let me know it's about to switch over to "Haunted Toolsheds of America" in five, four, three, two-FRAAK! It doesn't matter if I hit cancel because 50 other shows are lined up on the ever-growing and gangly tree of DVR priority. I make Junior prune everything back to NEW ONLY. Maybe then I can watch "Extreme Lay-Z-Boy" for five minutes straight.
Play Dad's character in "Call of Duty 4" 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, but I eventually dropped it all when I discovered girls. Today I just don't have the necessary skills. Today's games are all about team building, communication and multitasking. They're like a management seminar you can play. My son is so good at first person shooter games, he gets invited to play BETA versions. All I know is occasionally I'll hear his machine cry out "Excellent Kill!" and in the other room, I'll silently fist pump and whisper "That's my boy!"
Click the ads on Dad's blog. Don't look at me like that. It's legal.
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.
Tweet. My publisher told me to Tweet my deets. I don't know what that means so I just added it to the chore chart. I told my daughter to just post quotes from famous writers. This worked out 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 who 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.
Facebook maintenance. I have something like 890 friends on Facebook that I can't possibly keep up with. I pay my daughter to post canned responses to all my friends' urgent postings of "sitting in Starbucks" or "what's up with Fringe?" She can post "OMG LOL! Wasn't that in 'The Big Lebowski?'" 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 lives in Chicago with his wife and kids and can also be found at deathbychildren.com.
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