I’m not going to say that I’m in favor of not giving kids any money, or shelling out a measely allowance, but I think fewer kids than ever are learning to work for money at an early age – that too many kids are getting 100% of their needs met by asking parents for cash.
It’s only a little exaggeration to say I can’t get good work done on my home at any price. I can’t get people to show up, even to give quotes. I can’t get them to finish jobs they start. I can’t get them to work a whole day. I can’t get them to do work correctly, or without damaging other things. Frankly, I think most people are useless when it comes to work.
I’m not exaggerating there – there are countless useless jobs filled with people who do very little of value, in a country now constantly whining that someone else is supposed to “create jobs” for them. Jeez – that sounds just like a bunch of kids who never had to go out and get their own work to fill in the gaps around their allowance. But that also means that later, when people are working, they think just anyone can do it, and that there’s nothing to it.
It starts young. Remember when there were kids to mow your lawn? Where the Hell are they? Granted, there are still some to be found, but not nearly in the numbers they once were. Adults either – I can’t even get most lawn services to show up, even when I tell them yes I have money and will pay upon completion. In fact, *before* the market crash, there were guys knocking on my door all year long wanting to clean out garden beds, do hedges, or whatever. I haven’t seen one since the bottom fell out. I’ve heard a lot of clamour about there being no jobs. That’s true, there are no jobs, but there’s a lot of work, and a lot of people sitting on their asses who would rather play ninendo than do any.
A Spring or two ago, I had a boy come by asking for money so he could go on a school trip. He had his mom with him – apparently he couldn’t ask for handouts by himself. I told him I’ve got gardens he can rake, and I’ll pay him cash right now. All he did was lean on his mom, bury his face in her stomach, and hide his eyes. Sure he’s a kid, but I really don’t care – and I don’t care about his trip. That’s pathetic. He doesn’t mind if *I* work hard for money and give it to him freely, but he doesn’t want to lift a finger to do any work. That’s a kid spoiled on his freaking allowance.
Again, I got a shitty allowance growing up, that didn’t even cover the cost of a soda and a candy bar once a week. And I think that’s asinine for a family that can afford a house, or pretend to afford one. And I didn’t get squat if I didn’t mow. But I was also encouraged to go get other work, if I could find it. I had to find it, of course. My point is that, when I was growing up, if you were a pre-adolescent kid or an early teen, the adults on your block looked at you as a potential contract laborer. Now, there are neighborhoods full of such kids who have never raked a leaf.
Even when the work sucked, it had value. There’s no amount of pay for leaf raking that can be considered reasonable and still compensate you at a fair rate – it’s work designed for those truck-sized vacuums, or else you’re making a buck or two an hour. And people that wait until their lawn is six inches tall and thick as a carpet, and expect you to mow it for $25 are exploiting you at any age. Still, by doing that work, I learned more how to set a price effectively, properly value labor, and manage the details of a job (figure your gas, downtime to clean the mower and when it breaks, as it will even more quickly if you’re clogging it by mowing foot tall grass at a crawl, the importance of decent equipment – pulling a starter rope for 45minutes will change your attitude).
This isn’t meant to be one of those moralistic life lesson pieces that wax nostalgic about when kids learned responsibility through hard work. The same guy that tells you that crap wants to exploit you at a buck an hour because you’re a kid. What I’m lamenting here is that this shift from learning the basics of a small enterprise and contract work at an early age to depending on someone to hand you an allowance maybe on the basis of a pre-fit chore (doling out a job), is hamstringing kids who might otherwise learn how contracting works at an early age, and be resilient enough to work meaningfully in any economy.
What a lot of the US is doing right now is clinging to government’s parental leg and burying its face in any belly that pats it on the head and promised to protect it from going after its own work based on its own ideas. In other words, the crash has wrought *greater* not lesser dependence, in some cases, and a real divide is forming between people who are ready to lynch officials that don’t promise handouts on the left or jobs on the right, and people who are fed up with dependency and are creating their own culture of work independently of this top-down parental system.
It’s shitty that kids aren’t getting a chance to choose this by getting core experiences early on. And frankly, it has results. You can get all the good grades you want, staking everything on the old myth that a good career is inherently stable. Or you can prepare kids for the new era where you’re handicapped if you don’t have an independent way to add value, the ability to generate at least your own secondary income. People who stake it all on a single income source, and hobble their kids by training them to do likewise, aren’t doing good parenting – they’re setting up widespread failures in the next economy. What the next economy needs is baby contractors, who got the vibe of what’s coming at an early age. And meanwhile, I can’t get anyone to clean out my damned gardens, because those kids have already started growing up.
image via Babyhold.com