A Four-Letter Word for Fun
W-O-R-K. Or at least that’s how my three almost-six-year-old boys would answer that clue in a crossword puzzle. Kids are amazing that way—they see the drudgery we adults slug through as fascinating stuff, allowing them opportunities to role play, to get messy and push big noisy appliances around, and to feel independent and important. It’s really quite amazing to watch, perhaps all the more so because I know one day they’ll do a full 180 and declare chores “torture.”
For now though, I, their father, and their teacher are taking advantage of it. Their homework for the Thanksgiving Break has been to do an odd job worth $.15 each day, with the goal of earning $1.50 to buy supplies for a Christmas present they’ll make in kindergarten class. This, on top of their daily chores, for which they earn $2 a week. I do believe my house has never been this sparkly. And I have a major head rush to thank for it….
One day early last summer, I had my head down at the bottom of a laundry hamper, all the blood rushing into it as I stretched for that last dirty sock, when I had an epiphany: “Why in tarnation am I doing this?! These kids can collect socks from a hamper!” Within minutes I’d designed, printed, and debuted the Job Chart. Featured were tiny jobs that six-year-olds could do and which, despite that tininess, added up to a lot of work for me each day—work I saw no need for me to do any longer. I’d spent plenty of time scrubbing soiled onesies and vacuuming goldfish crumbs out of the carpet. No more! Since that fateful morning in my laundry hamper, each morning a boy opens the blinds in their shared bedroom, turns off the nightlight, and flushes their toilet (which I won’t let them flush during the night for fear of waking each other), and each night a boy empties all the inside trashcans into the big outside one and another boy gathers the laundry from all the hampers and takes it to the laundry room. But it doesn’t stop there: each week one boy vacuums the downstairs, one boy vacuums the van, and one boy takes the outside trash can to the curb and back on trash pick-up day.
Did you count that? SIX JOBS THAT WE PARENTS NO LONGER DO.
Head rushes can be glorious things.
What gets me is that the boys are perfectly content to do these jobs, trading off responsibilities each week. Some jobs have become habit, some are still wild thrills (a roaring vacuum hose in the van? Nirvana!). Plus, the boys know that if they skip even one job, they won’t get paid (it’s happened to each of them at least once because, hey, I’m a tough cookie and I mean business). They LIKE money. Very much. They’ve bought cars with their cash, and pylons, and even hammers. They feel empowered with a full wallet. Can’t blame them for that.
But they don’t get to spend all the cash. They are, after all, role playing, and part of playing an adult with money is being an adult who saves part of that money. At least that’s how we’re teaching it. So, one dollar is fun money, the second is savings.
The boys aren’t so keen on the savings part.
But that’s okay, I’m keen on it. I keep telling them that they’ll thank me for that part when they buy their first real car(s) with it. In the meantime, they’re happy with the toy cars and hammers. And the job-doing itself. When I left the house a few mornings ago for some writing time at Starbucks, my husband was teaching one son to use the washing machine and our two other sons were in the front yard shaking out a throw rug. They were all laughing.
I should get head rushes more often.