A recent article stated that only 28 percent of teenagers (16-18) have their driver's licenses, down from 46 percent of licensed teens in 1983. Their unemployment rate is 24 percent — fully three times the national average. Yes, it is getting more expensive to do things, but also many kids just don’t seem to be very motivated to chase after things. Many of them are content to be carted around by their parents, have things paid for by their parents and take their time reaching adulthood. Maybe this is the same argument that has been made in every generation (starting with the words, “In my day ...”), but from my perspective, teenagers have never before been so impressive or so useless. There are some really stellar kids out there making their way. And there are some really pathetic ones. Their potential spans a great chasm, and we should all be anxious to help them climb from mediocrity to impressiveness.
The value of hard work and desperation
In my day, my siblings and I would do anything to earn a little extra money. We were desperate. Lemonade stands, selling fruit from our orchard door to door. I even remember setting up a restaurant in our gazebo in the yard, making sandwiches with the food from our kitchen, and then expecting my mom to come and buy the food from me (so she had to buy the same stuff twice — at the grocery store, then the gazebo. She refused, but in exchange for a free sandwich, she let us keep selling her food to other people). If I could scrape together enough money to go to the movie, I was set. That creative ability to solve my money problems has led me all over the work-world — to Taiwan, a mountain summer camp, cleaning college buildings, working nights in a cherry factory, doing “handyman projects” that I (and my boss) were totally unqualified to do, crocheting afghans, cleaning houses, even writing a couple of articles for a local food magazine. Nevermind my college degree and legitimate, steady jobs. I was willing to work almost anywhere, and I have patchworked my 31 years with adventure, travel, crummy jobs, boredom and new skills.
And my level of ambition is put to shame by the previous generation’s. My father-in-law is a remarkably tenacious worker. When he was 10, he decided that he wanted a horse. Period. His parents said, “No, we don’t have any place to put it, you can’t have a horse.” But he was undeterred. He got on his bike and made some inquiries. He found a stable that he could board a horse and a place to buy hay. Now, he just needed a horse and money to buy it. He first saved up his money so that he could buy a lawnmower, then he mowed lawns, saved his lunch money every day instead of buying lunch, turned in pop bottles for about a dollar a day, saved his birthday money — in short, he didn’t spend a thing. (Keep in mind: he was 10). When he was 11, he had finally saved up about $300 in 1970 dollars (equivalent to $1,775 today).
He saw an ad in the paper for an Appaloosa for sale in LaVerkin, Utah, that he thought would be a good fit. $200. So he called up his bishop, who had a horse trailer, and they went down to buy the horse. He got Callie (named for her Calico coat) all set up in her stall and then went home and told his mom, “I bought a horse.”
“You did not!”
“I did. I’ll show you if you want.”
So they drove down there together and she was blown away. He would ride his bike across town each day after school to feed and ride Callie. He kept working to earn the money for her hay and board.
Desperation begets creativity. Creatively solving problems gives kids confidence to do more. Confidence in doing more leads to success. Overpaying kids upends the whole cycle.
So I propose a unified approach to the question of "What do you pay the baby sitter?":
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