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The Bills Keep Shooting Up

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July 2010
The Bills Keep Shooting Up There are many types of dads, and I’m proud to say that I’m not the type of dad who lectures his kids every time they leave the lights on in their room (or water running in the bathroom) one second longer than necessary. Just ask my kids and they’ll tell you that I don’t believe in giving them lectures, not when screaming will do.
Actually, I don’t really scream at them. It’s far more effective to threaten them. No, not with violence—but with violin. “You’d better turn the lights off right now or I’m going to ask the 7-year-old boy next door to come over and play his violin for you.”
It works like a charm. The kids dash around the house, turning off every light and electrical appliance while screaming, “Not the violin! Please, not the violin!”
Threatening them like this may seem cruel to you, but please don’t report me to the authorities. I don’t want to look like a hypocrite, especially since I’m a big supporter of the “National Campaign Against Domestic Violins.”
In an ideal world, I wouldn’t need to worry about the electricity bill. But I have an 8-year-old daughter named Lekha who thinks it’s her duty as the oldest child to turn the lights on every time she enters a room, even if it’s the middle of the afternoon, the curtains are drawn and so much sunlight is coming through the windows that her 4-year-old brother, Rahul, is wearing shades. And her mother is urging the entire family to sit beside the window, because we apparently don’t get enough Vitamin D.
I’ve tried to talk to Lekha in a calm, rational manner, but it just doesn’t work. The moment I mention the word “electricity,” she’s confused.
“Elect whom? I can’t even vote.”
“Electricity! Electricity!”
“Have we been there?”
“Been where?”
“To Electri City?”
“No, we haven’t been there. But if we can’t pay our bills, you might have to visit Atro City and Adver City.”
It’s tough to explain some concepts to an 8-year-old, but just try explaining things to a 6-year-old named Divya who loves to keep the fridge door open, while she stands there and contemplates what to have for a snack and whether there’s any possibility her mother will say “no” to the question “Pretty Mommy, may I please have some ice cream?”
It’s up to me, of course, to explain to her why she shouldn’t keep the fridge open and why it’s more effective to begin her question with the words “Handsome Daddy.”
“Divya, you’re letting out all the cold air.”
“It wants to get out, Daddy. How would you like to be in the fridge all day?”
“Are you going to set the bean sprouts free too? Please do. I won’t tell Mommy.”
“Okay, but I think the ice cream wants to get out too. Can we please set it free, handsome Daddy?”
Just in case my daughters aren’t doing enough to hike the utility bills, I can always count on their brother, who loves to keep the water running in the bathroom, while he watches it with the fascination of a tourist looking at the Niagara Falls.
It’s up to me to point out that water isn’t free.
“But Daddy, what about the rain?”
“Rain is free, Rahul, but we pay for this water.”
“Do we pay for arguing too?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I heard Mommy saying to you, ‘If you keep arguing with me, you’ll pay for it tonight.’”
“Yes, we pay for that too,” I say, realizing that while the utility bills may be high, they’re never quite as high as the arguing bill.

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