Sunday, April 02, 2006

Being careful of what you wish for

This morning we ate at our favorite breakfast spot, Cafe Francisco, which went surprisingly well (I'm sure there'll be more about eating out in later posts). Inexplicably, however, Kristy gave the kids a couple of advertising circulars from the newspaper. She gave them a small book of things they would probably want. In short, a list of demands. JP was the only one who picked up on it. He found a few things in the robot category that might be to his liking and began by wishing out loud that he may get this or that. Then he started talking about Christmas. It being April, we told him his birthday was closer, so he wished it was his birthday. He then came to the rationalization that if he had his own money then, holidays and birthdays be damned, he could buy this robot toy today, April 2nd, just because he wanted it. Alas, he has no money. So he wished aloud for C's money.

Well, all this money talk got me to thinking. How could JP get his own robot money? The first thing to come to mind was chores. If I could find some small thing for him to do then I could, in good conscience, hand over my money. And then simple bribery came to mind. JP is known for his diet and I will list his diet here: Pop Tart, toast, chocolate cookie, pizza, chocolate milk, bacon (this is NOT a partial list). So I suggested - no, I dared him - to eat a banana for a dollar. Other offers were quickly thrown out: broccoli, meat loaf, anything. But this idea really didn't take. It seems not even a robot is worth the hassle of ingesting nutrients. I wasn't sure of the morality of all of this anyway. I saw how quickly fruit for money could become drinking soured milk, eating a french fry off another diner's table at a restaurant or kissing the bottom of his shoe for cash or just because I dared him. And who would see the humor in any of that? Only me.

So we ended up back at chores, which was offered to The Trio. And boy were they excited. They could feel that money in their pockets already, burning, aching to be spent. Their finger tips tingled at the suggestion of the silver coins and heavy paper. The work was secondary, merely an afterthought. What would you have us do? They wondered. Dig ditches? Re-sod the yard? Paint our 1200 sq. ft. castle? Whatever it takes to GET US SOME MONEY! And what, indeed, would I have them do? What can a 3-,4-,8-year-old do without constant supervision that would ruin the whole point of kids doing chores - time for Mommy and Daddy to sit with our feet up, sip a cool drink, and marvel at the team of workers we've bred? Labor that is all our own, all ours until someone comes along to teach them those two terrible words...Minimum Wage.

They hounded me, begged me for work - it's what we dream of as parents really. JP wanted to sweep, so sweep he did. And let me just say, he did the worst job of sweeping I have EVER seen. But he was okay with that and after three or four minutes of it he was ready for his money. I explained to him that I was giving him his pay, but I saw room for improvement in his work and that I expected more of him in the future - the immediate future. I don't think he even heard his performance appraisal, dazed as he was by the dollar bill I held in my hand right there at his glossy-eyed level. S...I'm not really sure what she did. There was some laundry taken from her room to the laundry basket, there was talk of her straightening her room up and she did put her clean underwear someplace in her room. And all of this got her a dollar as well. A dollar, by the way, seems more than fair since I got not much more than that for mowing my great-grandparents' large corner lot when I was a mere boy.

C gets his own paragraph because he dusted, helped sweep the living room, put laundry away, straightened the living room and swept the front porch. As impressive as this work ethic is, his attitude was even more impressive. When JP asked, as he sat on the couch watching cartoons and snuggling with his dollar bill, why C was still working and didn't just get his money, C replied that he "didn't just want the money, he also wanted the house to be clean." How about that? Can he keep that up? Will it last until he moves out into his own place when he turns 18 (and no later!)? Who cares? It was very impressive and inspired pride for his parents for a day. And for this C will be pulled aside later and given a tidy sum of money over a dollar...but less than five, we'll just have to see.

This could be the beginning of years of nearly free labor, or this could be the beginning of the negotiations for a living allowance. The Trio hasn't found a labor lawyer yet, in fact they seem pretty content. The last I saw of S, she was looking for the bill she'd already misplaced and JP was sitting, watching TV, and kissing George Washington on the mouth.