From a Kid Point of View...
Christ, I hated dishes. And so did my mom, which meant that she pushed that job off onto my brother and I. No matter whose turn it was, we'd argue that it was the other's. Depending on if my mom was dating at the time, there could be up to five of us in the house at once, and that meant that they piled up pretty quick.
God, I hated my hair back then.
When mom hit her breaking point, she burst into the kitchen and said something that made my entire world light up... "When you start paying the rent, then you can stop doing the dishes. Until then, you do what I say."
We lived in an income-based apartment project, which meant that our rent was about $60 a month. It was summer, and I had just taken on my first summer job. So that Friday, I cashed my check, went into the government office where our rent was paid, and took care of the next three months.
Strangely, mom never backed out on her word.
Come to think of it, she may not have actually noticed.
Now that I'm a Parent...
Damn, I'm starting to think my own parents aren't great examples for these. My point here was that Mom was making us do a lot of these tasks to free up her six hour midday nap so she'd have plenty of energy to pound down a quarter bag with her drug buddies later that night. So she didn't have a lot of credibility when it came time to explain why we were having to do the jobs she clearly thought were beneath her.
But right now, in some household where both parents are salaried professionals who routinely put time in on weekends, there is a teenager mowing a lawn and saying to his Dad, "And what exactly do YOU do around here?"
There is no way for a adult to explain to a kid what's really going on. If a kid, from birth on, has always had a roof and electricity and internet access, he or she is automatically going to start treating them like constants, like the air they breathe. They can't know the fear; the constant anxiety a grown-up feels knowing that, in fact, we are all one back injury away from being homeless.
The kids don't know the knots their parents tie themselves into making sure those lights stay on, and that there is money for school clothes, and Christmas, and for a car when they turn sixteen, and college after that. All of that is invisible to them, and they won't understand until they're trying to provide all of that for themselves years down the road, losing sleep and eating acid holes in their stomach in the process.
A kid doesn't understand that they -- meaning the kids -- are our chores. That is, one of our chores is teaching them how to do chores (knowing they'll need to know how to do all of this stuff before long)
"No, I got this -- you go change the oil in my truck."
Luckily, I'm able to provide a house in which, if my kids tried to take my Mom's deal and trade chores for paying rent, I'd know they were selling human organs on the black market. It's not a deal I would take anyway. I'm trying to train them, I'm not sitting here saying, "Christ, I hate doing this... BOYS! Come in here for a second." And I believe that most parents are the same way. We pick out a couple of easy things: clean your room, do the dishes, take out the trash. Stuff that only takes a few minutes each, and that anyone can do. It's not making that much difference in my workload.
Yes, I admit that somewhere right now a parent is in fact saying, "Ok, when you're finished with that, you need to go up and pay the electric bill and then stop by the store, and grandpa's shit-bag needs changed before you cook dinner."
"And don't be taking hits off of his IV."
And those parents are wrong. Unless they're paralyzed or something. Kids need a break. Being a kid is hard. For a kid, going to school is as demanding as a full time job -- those were some of the hardest years of my life. Yes, I work twice as many hours as them now, but I'm a 37 year old man and I worked my way up to that. Besides, these people depend on me... not the other way around.
From a Kid Point of View...
I decided early on that I never wanted kids of my own. Any time the subject was brought up in our house, I was pretty vocal about it. But each time, my mother would tell me that one day I'd change my mind. It pissed me off every time she said this because I had clearly just told her that I wanted the opposite. Then she'd respond with the most insulting thing you can say to a teenager, "You'll understand when you're older."
I asked her to explain, and she gave me the basic, "There will be a point in your life where you just change your mind. It happens." But to me, the decision was final. I knew what I wanted in life, and children were not it. The fact that she wasn't taking me seriously just made my blood boil, but she insisted that she couldn't explain it -- I just had to experience that change for myself to understand.
The need to suppress murder urges was a daily battle.
Bullshit! I was an intelligent kid. I had the mental capacity to understand -- she just wasn't willing or smart enough to put it into words. Whatever. This was my life, and she'd see when I turned sixty and still didn't have kids of my own.
Now that I'm a Parent...
I have three kids of my own.
And they are the joy of my life.
There are some things that you quite simply can't explain. Things that kids have to experience in order to understand. It's like trying to tell a blind person what green is. Or explain sex in graphic detail to a seven year old and then tell him that one day he will do damn near anything to get it. Until the first time that he experiences those hormones, he'll think you're the most insane person on the planet. But it'll still be a few years before he gets it. He'll just understand when he's older.
Even things that can be put into words like the "kids or no kids" conversation -- I may have a better way to explain that to my own kids, but even if they understood the biological aspect of reproduction, they will still default to, "75% of what he's saying makes sense. The other 25% is just him being full of shit. I am my own person, and I know how I feel."
This is how I picture all teenagers.
It's like telling somebody waiting for their food at Denny's that they don't actually want pancakes. "Bullshit! I'm so hungry, I'm dying over here! I'm ready to eat the goddamned picture of pancakes off my placemat! You don't know me!" Then, an hour later, when they're feeling like they swallowed a mixer full of concrete, they're like, "Goddamn, why did I eat all those pancakes? What a horrible form of food! Why didn't you talk me out of it?"
Because I know that in the same position, I also couldn't have been talked out of it. A person has to live it, from that early excitement of seeing the pancakes in front of you, to the part where you genuinely enjoy eating the first third of them, to the part where you find yourself forcing the rest of them down because damn it you paid for them, to the final stage where you write a letter to your Congressman demanding pancakes be banned.
The unfortunate part is that it appears to the teenager like we're just blowing you off, even though the adult actually isn't. It's me, as a parent, recognizing that as a teenager I wouldn't have understood it either. Because I remember adults trying to explain these things, and they remembered their parents doing the same.
And the ironic part is that you won't truly understand the honesty of what I'm saying here. Until you're older.