Want an obedient kid? Get some leverage

We’re sending my son to Japan this summer.

We’re not doing this because he deserves it. He doesn’t. We’re not doing this for his cultural edification (he’s just going to buy ‘Engrish’ T-shirts and play video games the entire time, we know that). We’re not sending him because it’s cheap ’cause, trust me, I could buy a modestly appointed vintage sports car with the swag we’re blowing on this.

We’re sending him because up until the moment his raggedy jeans plop down into the business class seat of that jet, we can, and will, dangle this priceless excursion in front of him like a 40-foot-tall, diamond-encrusted, solid-gold carrot. We’re doing it because he’ll do anything to remain Japan-worthy in our eyes.

And when I say “anything,” I mean he’ll take out the trash after dark. In the snow. Twice.

“Hey Roon, take down the Christmas lights.”

“Aw, dad, I’m in the middle of an orc campaign!”

“Do you want to go to Japan?”

“You want them boxed by size or color?”


“Roon, go get those eight cases of Diet Coke out of the trunk.”

“Dad, it’s 3 in the morning and our lawn is crawling with rabid weasels!”


“Gimme the keys.”


“Roon, climb up on the roof and wipe the snow off the satellite dish.”

“But Dad-“


I don’t even have to ask him anymore. I merely drop the subtlest of hints.

“Who invented Nintendo?”

“What’s Godzilla’s favorite food?”

“Mr. Sulu is actually Korean.”

And it works! This is a kid so lazy, moss makes fun of him. He once took so long walking to school, when he got there, he was in the next grade. But now I just serve him Ramen noodles and he’s on his feet dusting the credenza. He even comes to me with ideas-like an eager little subcontractor. It’s awesome. My house has never been so clean. My dishwasher has never been so loaded. The dog poop has never been so thoroughly picked up.

The truth is, I don’t want him to go. I just want to stay here in my muumuu and teach him how to tend bar and do my expenses. I’m thinking about failing to make that final payment to the agency. Imagine what I might accomplish! I could get that new addition built. I could xeriscape the front yard.

I could get the laundry done.

But I can’t. I genuinely want him to have the time of his life, I do. Hell, I’m jealous.

But I can’t help wondering what I’m going to hold over his head when he’s back from Japan, sprawled in his gamer throne, jacked up on caffeine and screaming into his headset. I might as well put a down payment on a trip to Ireland. Then, the moment he steps foot off that plane, I’ll be all, “top o’ the mornin’ to you,” and feeding him brisket. He’ll be all, “Dad, that’s awesome!” And I’ll smile, tip my green felt top hat with my shillelagh and tell him to get started on the roof.

Christopher Garlington is a Chicago dad and the author of the deathbychildren.com blog.

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