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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.

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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 Psychology degree. She married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Parents Magazine, Upworthy, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings and Twins Magazine. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05