Jewish World Review Dec. 17, 2004 / 5 Teves, 5765
Kids may celebrate as parents revolt
Offering further proof that children are the leading cause of mental illness, a Florida couple decided to punish their unhelpful children by moving out to the front yard.
Cat and Harlan Barnard of Deltona now live in a tent, sit on lawn chairs and subsist on marshmallows roasted over a hibachi. They are doing this, they say, because their 17-year-old son and 12-year- old daughter refuse to help with the household chores.
"This is our last-ditch effort," said Cat Barnard, who after three days of Jet-Puffs would presumably kill for a hot dog.
As the parent of a teenager, I sympathize with the Barnards and understand their desperation. If my wife and I had a nickel for every time we've pleaded with our son to clean his room, we'd be living in a much nicer neighborhood. (Preferably one where stressed-out parents are not living in tents on their front lawn.)
It is possible that this radical parenting experiment will prove so successful that beleaguered moms and dads all over America will be hauling out their pup tents and firing up their hibachis in order to get their kids to make their beds and do a load of laundry.
A diet of marshmallows is a small price to pay if you are able to walk into your teen's bedroom without fear of contracting amoebic dysentery or some other hideous disease.
Still, one has to wonder if a teen who is unwilling to flush, let alone clean his bathroom, will be shamed into domestic helpfulness by the sight of his parents swatting mosquitoes in the front yard.
My guess is that most teens' reaction would be: "Good riddance, suckers. Now we can trash the place and order dirty movies on cable."
Perhaps the Barnards' experiment is simply a way of inuring themselves to the slovenly lifestyles of their children. After you have spent a week in a pup tent, a sinkful of dirty dishes is unlikely to bother you. Or bother you as much.
Personally, I don't see how making myself miserable helps solve the twin problems of a dirty house and lazy, ungrateful children. A weekend in a posh hotel wouldn't solve the problems, either, but at least I'd get room service.
I'm sure the day will come when the Barnards and their truculent spawn can sit down together and laugh about the time mom and dad left home to camp in the yard. They might even decide to toast each other. Assuming, of course, that they can find any clean glasses.
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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.
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