Sep 062010

The Artist didn’t do well his second semester in college.

He’s not the most forthcoming individual, but over the course of time we managed to glean that he wasn’t sure if architecture was the career he really wanted. He isn’t sure what he wants to do—he’s expressed interest in graphic arts, or astronomy.

Personally, I think he wouldn’t enjoy astronomy; I don’t think he realizes how much math is involved. Math is not his strong subject.

As the fall semester approached, his father suggested he sign up for three or four 100-level classes in subjects he thought looked interesting. That way he could get an idea of what they involved, and which one he might actually enjoy doing.

The Artist hemmed and hawed, and procrastinated, and by the time he got around to signing up for classes they were all full. He was waitlisted for every single one of them, and none opened up. With the economy in the toilet many people are going back to college, and the 100-level classes in particular fill up fast.

So he spent a few weeks flopping around the house. He slept all day, and stayed up all night playing video games. I would ask him to do something to help out, like mow the grass, and it wouldn’t be done when I got home.

Eventually Alpha Geek and I laid it out for him. “When you’re a child,” we told him, “we’re both legally and morally obligated to provide you with food, and shelter, and basic necessities. Now that you’re an adult, we don’t have to give you these things. We’re willing to support you while you’re in school, but we’re not willing to support you so you can sleep all day and play computer games all night.”

Of course, he’d heard all this before. But now I brought out my little spreadsheet—an estimation of The Artist’s share of our living expenses. I used averages of our expenses over the last year, divided by three, just to give me some sort of number to work with. Alpha Geek said I was much nicer than he would have been—he would have used the going market rate for renting out a room.

But our purpose wasn’t to tell The Artist that was how much rent he owed us. Instead we used it to figure how much work he’d need to do around the house to earn his keep. Alpha Geek made up a time sheet for him to keep track of what he does and how many hours he spends doing it. I wrote out a list of general maintenance chores, just to get him started with ideas of things to do. And we agreed that if he does work over his weekly minimum, we’ll pay him.

We set all that up a couple of weeks ago. Frankly The Artist seems to like it. He’s got a clear understanding of what we want from him, he feels like he’s contributing to the household, and he gets a little spending money each week to boot. Our yard hasn’t looked this well-kept in years, and it’s nice coming home and finding someone else has unloaded the dishwasher. He’s even vacuumed once or twice.

Meanwhile, The Artist has been asking when registration for spring classes starts. He was pretty disappointed to have missed it this semester, but I think now he’s got a better understanding of why I was pushing him to get on the ball and sign up early.

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