Around fifth grade or so my mom went back to work and in sixth grade my two older sisters and I were left on our own during the summer. You can imagine what happens when three girls are left to their own devices. My older sister and I enjoyed breakfast at around 10:00 (or later) and it often consisted of ice cream. Lunch would be peanut butter on a spoon, the spoon was double dipped. Then we spent a lot of the days doing, well, nothing.
Often times our Saturdays would be filled with cleaning the house top to bottom. No doubt it's because the three of us destroyed the house all week long and left it to be such a disaster that come Saturday we had no other option than to have an eight hour cleaning "fest". We also didn't get an allowance per se. It was more of an occasional payment for our chores around the house. It was definitely not a continual thing. We would go a long time without ever getting this payment opportunity, instead we had to clean because, as my mom always said, "it was part of being a member of the family". You would think that when this rare event did occur that we would jump at the chance to earn some extra cash.
You would think.
One summer my mom wrote out a long list of chores we could do over the summer. They were labelled as daily, weekly and once during the summer. Next to the chore was the amount that you would get paid. ex: washing the kitchen floor (hands and knees mind you)-weekly, $.50, Dishes-daily, $.15, Vacuuming downstairs-weekly, $.25. I suppose looking back I could have made a fair amount of money for something that I wasn't being paid for the week before. I didn't look at it that way. I saw $.50. Washing the floor on my hands and knees on a weekly basis for $.50. This was already something I was doing since we didn't have a mop, I just wasn't getting paid for it.
I remember my mom telling us, "These are the chores you can do to earn extra money."
Did you read the flaw in that sentence? It's a simple word that shouldn't make a difference. Can. You can do this. She never said you have to do this.
That particular summer I happened to be babysitting a lot. I was making quite a bit of money. $2/hour is awesome when you're 12 in the late eighties. It shouldn't have come to a surprise when partway through the summer I haven't been doing my chores. When she not so quietly brings the fact that I'm slacking, I (with the indifference that only a teen can manage), I tell her, "I didn't need any money."
I think that was the last summer we were given the money incentive.
Now I have Monkey. He is a lot like me in many ways. For him, it is all about the wording.
Tonight was no exception. After dinner, I wanted Sunshine and Monkey to clean up their toys. I told them both that when they were done they could have their piece of cake. No, that's not what I said, what I said was, "If you clean your toys, you can have a piece of cake." Did you see the problem there? Yes, it's the word "if". As in, "If you choose to clean, you can have a piece of cake. He clings to that if and tells me, "I don't want any cake."
Monkey: "I don't want any cake."
Me: "Then don't have any cake, but you're still cleaning the room."
Monkey: "Can I go outside and play?"
By this point Sunshine is almost done picking up her toys. I tell to go outside and play, but he will not be getting any cake or any other kind of dessert. I would also add that we don't really have dessert that often here so it's a big deal to have cake.
So he goes outside to play, Mary picks up the last 2 toys (literally, there were 2 more toys) and sits down to eat her well earned dessert. I am fully expecting a chocolate-envy meltdown. Bug and I are also eating cake and in comes Monkey and, sure enough, he asks for a piece of cake. I tell him "No. Why can't you have any cake?" I was impressed at how easily he answered, "Because I didn't pick up my toys." He took this as a good reason and goes back outside to play. Sunshine finishes her cake and goes outside to play with him.
Hubby comes home at about this time and, once again, Monkey asks for a piece of cake and we have the same conversation. Again, he accepts the reasoning. I am truly amazed. I tell him that if he had wanted cake he should have helped Sunshine clean. He replies, "That's ok, I don't want cake."
Really? He didn't ask for cake anymore and was quite happy knowing that he got out of cleaning. I think I need to remember this and always think before I speak. Apparently I need to make sure he doesn't have any kind of option whatsoever.
I'm open to suggestions on new verbiage.