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Dealing with Alexa, the Other Teenager in My House

Like a lot of households, we added a new family member recently. Her name is Alexa. Sure, she’s AI and not human, but I’ve started talking to her on a regular basis. Sometimes I ask her to do things for me. Unfortunately, much like my kids, she doesn’t always cooperate.

Yet Alexa is different from my teenagers who “forget” or hide in the basement when I ask for help. If I ask Alexa to do something she can’t do, she responds, “Sorry, I’m not sure about that,” or “Sorry, I don’t know that one.” Fair enough.

Here are 4 things I desperately wish Alexa could do:

1. Request: Alexa, will you do the laundry?

I ask Alexa to do my laundry almost every day. She conveniently “doesn’t know” what I’m talking about. Surely the creators of a voice-controlled smart speaker could figure out how to get Alexa to do a simple task like laundry, right? There are over 5,000 employees working on Alexa, so I’m confident they will eventually make her capable of tossing some clothes in the wash.

Compromise: Sorting socks feels less tedious if I say, “Alexa, will you tell me a joke?” Her jokes are corny, but I can’t help but laugh.

2. Request: Alexa, will you cook dinner?

Alexa is a little evasive when I ask her to make dinner. Instead of saying no, she suggests some recipes. Maybe she didn’t understand my question. I have a ton of cookbooks. I don’t need a recipe, I need someone to physically cook the dinner for me. When I point this out, she says, “Cooking is beyond me.” I’m starting to notice an uncanny resemblance between Alexa and my teens. No wonder they love her so much.

Compromise: Once I accepted the fact that I was the only one who was going to make dinner, I took Alexa up on her recipe suggestion. I didn’t feel like thumbing through my cookbooks, so I said, “Alexa, just give me a recipe.” I guess she thought I wanted a recipe with the word “just” in it, because her recommendation was “Just Chili.” It wasn’t bad, but I still think it would’ve been better if Alexa had cooked it.

3. Request: Alexa, will you drive my kid across town to her friend’s house at 9 p.m.?

I was already in my pajamas, reading my book and excited about going to bed early when my daughter asked me to drive her to her friend’s house. I knew better than to think Alexa could help me out, but was it too much to hope that she might be friends with a self-driving Tesla?

Compromise: I suggested to my daughter that she invite her friend to our house instead. “You can play Escape the Room with Alexa,” I offered. It worked! For the rest of the night, they played the different escape room scenarios available through Alexa. Thanks, Alexa!

4. Request: Alexa, will you clean my kids’ messy room?

When I ask Alexa to clean, she says, “Sorry, I’m not sure.” So I say, “Alexa, drop in on the basement,” which allows me to announce to my kids in the basement, “If I don’t receive some help in the next thirty seconds the wi-fi will be turned off.” The next sound I hear is scampering feet coming up the stairs.

Compromise: After offering to help my teens clean their room, I say, “Alexa, play my playlist ‘Clean the House.’” When “Another One Bites the Dust” blares through the speaker, the cleaning feels a little less daunting for all of us.

Turns out, dealing with Alexa is a lot like parenting teenagers. We’ve had some rocky moments, but Alexa always seems to find a way to win me over. A lot like my kids.

Cheryl Maguire

Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling degree in psychology. Her writing has been published in Parents, Upworthy, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings. You can find her on Twitter @CherylMaguire05.