Government’s Greasy Fingerprints

As a parent, you’ll likely wonder why your kids do the things they do. I’ve seen a great many books and columns by behavioral experts who have tried to explain this phenomenon. I’ve heard the debates about nature versus nurture and the case for genetics as the culprit. I don’t believe any or all are the main reason.

I say acts of Congress are to blame.

A glimpse at the history of congressional bills was enough to convince me that kids are actually federally mandated to do annoying, costly, obstreperous or odd things. After all, our elected officials have long been adept at sneaking riders onto major bills that are then passed into law. Before long, you don’t know what hit you.

Consider:

The Residence Act of 1790 established a permanent U.S. capital. I’m willing to bet my wife’s last cold washcloth that it also required kids to leave drawers and cabinets open, and dirty dishes, towels and laundry scattered around their residences.

The Preemption Act of 1841 supposedly helped produce the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, so there must have been a directive in it that forbids kids to clean their rooms. Surely the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 expanded their duties to spilling food and drink on rugs and furniture in rooms you’ve told them not to eat in.

The biggie was the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which required kids to rebel at every turn. And let’s not overlook the False Claims Act of 1863, which is why they claim you’re the worst parent on the planet each time you use the word “no.”

When your kids blow their allowance on junk and have no money to buy birthday or Christmas gifts for other family members? The Bankruptcy Act of 1898.

Clearly the Food and Fuel Control Act of 1917 required youngsters to deposit unfinished beverages, moldering yogurt containers, and bits of fruit in their rooms or under their beds, and lights and other energy-guzzling devices on in places they’ve vacated. 

The Esch Car Service Act of the same year accounts for your kids telling you they’ll be getting a ride home from a friend’s house or an outing only to call and say “Come get me” after you’ve put on your pajamas and settled in for a relaxing evening.

The Volstead Act of 1919 established prohibition, but I’m sure it also prohibited kids from doing homework and other school assignments in a timely fashion. Thus, the reason why they stay up until they’re cross-eyed on the night before something is due.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 obviously mandated talking on the phone as much as possible and has surely been expanded to texting and being online at least 15 hours a day. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 must have something in it about keeping earbuds in place at all times. (The iPod was introduced in 2001. Coincidence, you say? I think not.)

Who could possibly benefit from such congressional action, you ask? How about cleaning product, furniture, rug, oil, telephone, electric and publishing companies, not to mention sedative (for parents) manufacturers? Just follow the money, as the saying goes.

Hey, kids’ behavior has been a boon for many industries that are the backbone of our mighty economy. I’m sure all the mandates mentioned above are somewhere in the fine print.

This column originally appeared in The Poughkeepsie Journal and is included in my book, “The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life.” To obtain a copy, visit Amazon or Barnesandnoble.com.