As summer commenced, hope my 17-year-old son would land a job faded as quickly as my aspirations for an instant forty pound weight loss.
By the second week of June, his summer rhythm was set: Eating randomly at least six times a day, playing video games endlessly (after he pounded out 15 minutes of chores), staying up late binge watching Netflix and sleeping until noon.
My husband and I began brainstorming additional projects and chores to address his idle capacity. One night over dinner, we decided that he should take the dogs for a walk the next day. Perhaps this thought was prompted because we had to buy him bigger shorts due to the six-times-a-day-face-in-the-refrigerator habit. Incorporating some physical exertion seemed like a prudent parenting move.
We knew we needed to set some parameters. This child needs expectations clearly set, since he has the genetic blessing of being able to argue the semantics about anything. He could walk them to and from the mailbox, “check the box” on the list and call it complete with a clear conscious. So we asked him to use his (“his” = the one we bought and pay for) iPhone, and turn on an activity tracker during his stroll. We asked him to walk at least three miles with the dogs, which we reasoned would be less than an hour out of his busy day. He agreed without complaining. That fact alone should have put us on high alert.
The following evening, my husband asks to see the tracker, and our son opens the app and hands the phone to him. It shows exactly three miles. Passing the phone to me, I, out of habit and being obsessed with statistics, hit the “workout details” button.
His fastest mile? “1:33” – One minute and thirty-three seconds. WTH?
My face twists in confusion. I look up and witness my spawn spontaneously bursts into a spin doctor. “What mom? Give me that. What did you do to it? It must be broken.There is no way. You are looking at it wrong.” Too bad he did not apply as a summer intern with a local politician – his gift of verbal deflection might have been put to better use.
His slowest mile? 22:45 – twenty-two minutes and forty-five seconds.
I silently gaze at him for a few more minutes, as his spew of verbal diarrhea loses steam. Finally, he succumbs to Catholic guilt and fesses up. He had started the tracker, and then got in his (“his” = the one we bought and pay for) car, went cruising through our ‘hood, and then left the tracker turned on sitting on the kitchen counter – while he ate a snack after his exhausting five-minute drive – to let the total time catch up with the distance.
He didn’t even have the decency to take the dogs for a joy ride. I am pretty sure he bought their silence with cheese.
The consequence needed to be as creative as his little scheme. Channelling Dr. Phil, I asked myself – what is his currency? What is valuable to him? Instantly my thoughts turned to is his love of sleep. Waking him up in the morning (which I wrote about here: I Swear I Skipped the Poison Apple) is an adventure all on its own. Over and over as school winds down, all he says is “I can sleep as late as I want!”
So for the next 30 days, our dear Pinocchio, must walk the dogs every day. Since he cannot be trusted, he must be awake, on his own, by 6:45 am so he can walk them before I leave for work. And if he fails to arise, two additional days are tacked on to the punishment period.
So far, the dogs have walked over 40 miles and, as a bonus, those new shorts are a little looser. My neighbors have even commented that they see him walk the dogs everyday, and add sweet commentary like, “Isn’t that wonderful?”
Yep, Mr. Wonderful is counting down the days until he can pile up the Z’s before he is back in school. Hopefully we will also think twice before he tries to blow sunshine up my arse. Happy Summer y’all.