Sunday, July 5, 2009

The value of a dollar

We've always been pretty good about giving the girls responsibilities. They are responsible for keeping their room clean. Granted, you wouldn't always know it and yes, there are times when I have to go in and do it (and when I do it it involves garbage bags and Rubbermaid basins) but for the most part they keep it in decent shape.
They are responsible for cleaning up after themselves through the house. They don't play in the playroom anymore at all (more geared for the younger kids now) but they play in 'Nana's living room', our own living room and of course their room.
They've also got a chore list. These are not required chores, rather they are chores that can be done around the house that will earn them money. Because the real issue at hand here is not the responsibilities they have, it's all about what it's costing me.

It's rare that we leave the house (and more so with Mary Jo than with Emily) that I am not bugged incessantly to buy something for them. (at the moment it's usually Webkinz) But then I noticed one day that I (and Sean and my mom) had created some greedy, indulged, spoiled children. While I didn't always give in to buying the bigger ticket item, (not that Webkinz are pricey) but I'd compromise (or so I thought) buy getting them something from the dollar store. In the long run, I screwed myself. I set them up to expect that even if the Webkinz didn't pan out, something would. And oh my, the monsters I created.
So the chore chart came along. My reasoning is, if you want something, you need to work for it, the same as the rest of us. So I have a lovely, detailed chore chart, itemized with the pay off for each job. Feeding the cat is a quarter. Cleaning the bathroom (tub included) is $5. Laundry, $3 per load (wash, dry, fold, and put away)
For the most part, Mary holds out until special occasions to get a new Webkinz. The only job she'll willingly do for money is watch Connor while I shower because it involves playing. She hasn't developed my type A, can't-stand-the-clutter personality. So while she is seeing the flip side of Emily buying things and she's not getting anything (and sometimes the fits that go along with that are comparable to that of a 2 year old) it's not enough to get her to put the dishes away or sweep the floor.
Emily on the other hand, has gotten to be pretty good at managing her needs to chore to money ratios.
The latest *must have* for her is Webkinz trading cards. She's *heard through the grapevine* that you get a free online pet with the trading cards and they are so much more cheaper than the stuffed animal. So she wants to buy two packs of cards. $6 + tax. She's already got the tax so she needs the $6.
She caught me in the middle of laundry yesterday and asked if she could do it to earn her $6. Well, my Momma didn't raise no fool - if someone wants to do the laundry for me I'm not going to argue.
But wait - this Momma didn't raise no fool either. She did 2 complete loads (wash dry, fold and put away) and then stuck me with the other 5. Because, you see, 2 complete loads netted her $6.
I pointed out that if she did the other 5 loads that she'd have $15 extra dollars for, oh I don't know, another Webkinz, the new Jonas Brothers CD, her own pizza lunch. No deal. She needed $6 now, she made $6 and not a minute more of work was being done.
I realize I should be grateful that she did 2 loads. It was 2 loads I didn't have to do but in the grand scheme of things, not having to do any of them would have been even better! And I wonder about the work ethic she's learning. Do the bare minimum required and not a bit more?
And what did I gain from this. Well, besides two less loads of laundry I got the distinct privilege of listening to her ask me 40 million times "When can we go to the mall to get my cards?" Oh, and lets not forget the whining I'll hear from Mary when Emily buys the cards and Mary leaves empty handed because she didn't feel like doing any chores yesterday.

I almost wonder if it's easier for me to just let them be spoiled rotten and learn the truth about life when they are older. I'm sure it would be easier for me - not so much for them though and that's where the messy part of parenting comes into play. As parents, we deal with the hard lessons now so that they won't have to when they're older. At least not until they are teaching their own kids the very same lessons.

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