FLAKES: The unemployable kid

Saturday February 27 2016

“You can wash my car.” You could see that he

“You can wash my car.” You could see that he regretted it as soon as he said it, but it was too late to withdraw. ILLUSTRATION| JOSEPH NGARI 

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A parent sometimes becomes a sort of bank account – the kind where one can reap without sowing. Most parents don’t have a problem with this approach to financial management because kids are so cute.

However, once in a while a parent suffers a crisis of conscience, and wonders whether all this largesse will transform his little angel into a large, unemployable lout.

This is when a parent becomes better than the National Treasury at imposing a freeze on expenditure. These are the times when he is forced to trot out the worn, “Money does not grow upon trees!” lecture. Come on! All offspring know that money is not the

same as fruit! It is flat, inedible and is picked from parental pockets and purses (or, nowadays, transferred from their phones)

When my dad barked that money doesn’t grow on trees, I stared at him in pained astonishment. I could see my licorice bootlaces, jelly beans, marshmallows, acid drops, giant lollipops and assorted chocolate bars rapidly disappearing beneath an avalanche of

parental discipline. A brain scan would have revealed a light show of neutrons firing in my cerebral cortex as I desperately sought an irresistible reason why my dad should continue to unquestioningly sponsor

my sugar addiction.

“Da-aa-d,” I meowed in melting tones. “No!” he said firmly, “No more money unless you work for it!” We looked at each other. This was clearly a standoff. Both of us knew that, despite several years of

expensive education, I had no marketable skills whatsoever.

No matter what Herculean task that my father chose for me, it was clear even to a person of far lower intelligence that he could easily find someone else who could do it better at lower cost. However, the

penniless survive through boldness and flexibility...

“I am willing to work, Dad. What do you want me to do?” He began to look like a fugitive with the crosshairs trained on him. “You can wash my car.” You could see that he regretted it as soon as he said it, but it was too late to withdraw.

He rapidly tried to calculate how much damage a skinny, nine-year-old girl could do to an ageing Peugeot. In the meantime I was trying to figure out how to negotiate the most expensive car wash in the history of vehicular cleansing.

However, Dad was an old hand at performance-linked remuneration, and the proposed payment ran to only a few gobstoppers. No matter, any sweet is better than none. Well that Peugeot suffered a little at my hands, but it was a great learning experience.

I learned that it is important to ensure that all the windows are properly closed before training a high pressure hose on a vehicle. I learnt that climbing on the bonnet of a car in order to clean the roof is not a very good idea as it may result in dents.

I also learnt putting too much soap on the cleaning sponge creates foam that is capable of covering a large part of the garden. Indeed when Dad reappeared to do his performance evaluation, and had a good look at his bonnet, seats and garden, he commented

sarcastically that the only gob that needed stopping was mine!

Having failed to achieve my wage targets through my first attempts at honest labour I offered more of my “skills.” “Is there anything that you need fetched or carried, Dad?” He glanced at my rail thin arms with their complete lack of muscle tone.

“No, I don’t think so.” “I could make you something to eat...” He recalled my last effort in the kitchen, which consisted of a stew of meat and whole oranges, with a shudder. “No, thank you.” “I could walk Puppy…” Since Puppy was a hyperactive

mongrel with free rein in the garden and had MBA-worthy strategies for evading a leash, both of us knew this was not going to work. My dad sighed in resignation; maybe there was no way to circumvent the unemployable lout. He reached into his pocket

and produced enough change to send me happily to the tuck shop.


This Saturday, teach your kids some work skills and economics.