Monday, February 25, 2013

I Just Can't Leave Well Enough Alone, I Suppose

 Evie helping Ben clean out the truck

This lazy people issue has been haunting me over the last two weeks I tell you.

Brad came into the house last week with a look of exasperation on his face and a note of disgust in his voice. He had been listening to a program on NPR while he was working in the yard--an hour devoted to the discussion of the millennial generation and the economic difficulties they face.  One guest of the show claimed that he had been lied to by society:  As a young black man, he had dreamed of a high-paying job with fancy benefits waiting for him when he graduated from college, but when college was over and he was facing thousands of dollars in school debt, he had become abruptly acquainted with reality.  There was no job waiting for him at the end of the college rainbow, no pot of gold and most importantly, no BMW in the garage of a large house equipped with wireless everything and the newest technology.  His question was--Now what?

A caller from Tampa Bay, Florida, called the show.  He also described himself as a young black man, but one who had grown up the son of a struggling single mom in a community filled with drugs, racism, and true poverty.  He recognized the power his circumstances wielded over him, and he vowed to escape.  Without much formal education, his options were limited, but he had the drive and the vision of where he wanted to go.  He accepted an entry-level position working at Chase Bank, and he had worked his way up to a current salary of $60,000.

The educated man's response keeps coming back to me.  He said, "That's fine for him, but I don't want to work at a bank.  What about me?"
our Saturday work chart

"I don't want to work at a bank."  Seriously?  Here's a little-known fact of life--we have to do things we don't like sometimes. When I assign Saturday chores around here (and they get assigned every single week), there are three jobs that are dreaded by all--sweeping and mopping miles of hardwood, scrubbing the kitchen counters, and cleaning up all the toys in the basement.  I hear that same "I don't want to" phrase at least twenty times a week, but that doesn't change the fact that those jobs have to be done.  And you know what?  When my kids are parents, they can force their kids to do the crappy jobs around the house while they sit back and do the easy stuff like paying the mortgage and managing a household, because as every kid knows, those jobs are MUCH easier than cleaning a few toilets or sorting toys into buckets.

The sad part about this young man's comment is that he firmly believes what he says.  "What about me?"  There's a whole generation of kids out there who have been awarded trophies for every team they've ever played on regardless of their scoring abilities, who have been handed iPods and cell phones and cars almost as fast as new models have reached the market (with no effort on their part), who have been led to believe that financial bliss is handed to you along with your college diploma without the hard work that accompanies success. These kids haven't been required to work because their parents were so busy being their friends that they don't want to make their kids mad by facing what real adult life brings--disappointment, hours doing things you don't like to get ahead, struggle, work, and hard knocks.

This so-called millennial generation has been brought up to be short-sighted with needs gratified almost instantly.  From the internet to twitter to Facebook, no one has to wait more than an instant for almost anything.  They have little work ethic and and even less long-term vision.

Do you think my grandfather really wanted to leave his young wife and children for weeks at a time to work on building a dam in Flaming Gorge, Wyoming?  I'm sure he didn't, but his love for them is evident in the letters he sent to Orem, Utah, every week, and while he was gone he developed the skills necessary to support his family as an electrician when he returned.  Do you think Brad's dad enjoyed the prospect of his plane possibly being shot down over Vietnam while he flew combat missions?  I don't think so, but he knew that when he came home, he would have the skills necessary to look for employment as a pilot.  When we were in school at BYU, I worked as a teaching assistant for a history class while attending school full time, and for one semester Brad (always the overachiever) worked two twenty-hour-a-week jobs while balancing 18 credits.  The jobs weren't glamorous, nor our dream jobs, but they paid the bills and helped us gain real-world experience that benefited us later.
So, NPR, please forgive me, for I'm teaching my children to work.  For I'm teaching them that society owes them NOTHING and that they owe humanity their sweat and effort. Forgive me for trying to show them that silver spoons don't just appear in the real world--silver spoons are created by the effort you expend in your own support. Forgive me for teaching them that working fast food or janitorial is respectable and honorable, in order to have gas for their car and money for movies.  Forgive me my traditional work ethic and old-school approach to success.

I just hope and pray that there are more than a handful of families like mine left in this country.  I hate to see what's coming next.

And just as a funny, halfway relevant aside:

Yesterday I was making dinner for the family when I noticed that Ben had left all the trash, etc., from his lunch preparation on the counter.  I called him downstairs and said, "You know I will love you eternally as your mother, but I am not your maid. You know the difference between the two, right?"

As he scooped up his trash, he quickly responded (and not unkindly, I might add): "Yeah, a maid is required to do her job with a smile."

And that, my friends, is how I see things.  What is your opinion?


  1. Love Ben's quick wit! I completely agree with you on the kids these days thinking they are "owed" things in life. I too hated the idea of work when I was a kid but, I am so thinkful that we had parents that "made" us work. My kids, and yours, will be thankful one day too. It WILL pay off in the long run even if it is not with money.
    P.S. I love that you got some photos of Evie with her hair done! :) You said they would be coming.

  2. Our snow blower broke....we aren't replacing it right snowed 4 inches last week and 5-8 more inches are coming tomorrow....guess who shoveled? Not me:)

  3. LOVE that you are teaching them to work. And I also feel strongly that even though my job may be to care for hearth and home, I AM NOT A MAID! So smiling or not, I do my duty all while making sure my kidlets learn to do theirs as well.

  4. Yesterday my mother was telling me about the RS discussion in her ward.

    The ladies were asked to share things that they do with their children to make sure they have a good childhood. She said that most talked about vacations, concerts, trips, music lessons, fun activities, etc.

    When they asked her, she said that she made sure her kids got up every day and did their household chores, garden chores, and farm chores. It took all ten of us to keep things going. And when the work was done we were free to play in the barns, fields, or river bottoms.

    A couple of Saturdays a month we would pack sandwiches for a picnic, pile in the back of Dad's pickup, and head up into the mountains. We would walk along the irrigation ditches and reservoirs checking for leaks or animal damage.

    Teaching her children to work was more important than making sure we had fun. And she was right.