I didn’t know what to do with my kids for years. They ate my food. They woke me up at horrible hours during the night to tell me they’d peed their bed, vomited somewhere or had a nightmare. They came from school with more work for me than my publishers gave me. They cost money. Lots and lots of money. So what are kids for? What do they do?
And more importantly, what can they do?
I can tell you the last, at least, because I’ve only just discovered some of these purposes, although the smart parents out there already know.
#1 They can wash cars
I didn’t know until now that washing cars was fun for them. It’s not just a job, with some cash potential, its an opportunity for mayhem and destruction which pleases them immensely. They can gather supplies, get a huge bottle of soap, fire up the hose and thoroughly soak each other and maybe just squirt mom a half dozen times, too. The negative is that they miss lots of spots on the car, particularly high up on the top of SUV type vehicles but over all, a great solid activity with a clean chrome finish.
#2 Empty the dishwasher
For some reason emptying the dishwasher is the least offensive household task they can think of…and I’m not sure why. Maybe because its almost instant gratification. Open door, pull out shelves and stack plates, line up glasses, put away silverware and done. Job finished. It’s great, too, because there is already a natural division of labor. (Jake, you do bottom rack and I’ll do top rack. Or, Jake, you do all the glass stuff and I’ll do silverware and plastic stuff.) They also seem to respond really well to the no clean dishes equals no food to eat theory. Hunger is an amazing motivator.
And my personal favorite:
#3 Call Screener
The last actually happened by mistake. I’d call it rudeness in any other circumstance but it worked, so beautifully, that I have to share.
End of March every telemarketer on earth seemed to want my money. UCLA Foundation, USF Fund, Intiman Theatre, 5th Avenue Theatre, Bellevue Unified School District and on and on. Every night for two weeks at least one call wanting cash, some nights two or three. For awhile I pretended to be a babysitter (No, she’s not in right now. She’ll be back in two weeks…) but sometimes the local numbers fooled me and I answered like a normal, friendly person instead. But one evening my son Ty managed the phone while I whipped up dinner. Call after call came, 800 numbers followed by 866 numbers followed by ‘Toll Free Number’ and every time he gave me a prefix I told him, ‘That’s a sales call, ignore.’
The fourth call came and it was a 206 area code, which is Seattle’s area code and I told him to go ahead and answer, but as he picked up, I said to Ty, ‘It better not be someone wanting money.’
Ty, most thoughtfully, greeted the caller with virtually the same words, ‘You better not be wanting money,’ before handing me the phone.
I took the phone from Ty, shoved it between my neck and shoulder and continued stirring at the stove. ‘This is Jane,’ I said.
‘Uh, hi,’ the woman said on the other end, sounding vaguely shaken. ‘Who was that?’
‘My eight year old son,’ I answered. ‘Who is this?’
‘Um, the X Theatre,’ she said. She hesitated. ‘Maybe this isn’t a good time to talk.’
‘You’re calling asking for a donation?’
‘Yes, but never mind. You have a good night. Enjoy your kids. Bye.’ Click. She hung up.
And I don’t think she called again.
I had no idea my children could be so useful.