My eight year old son has suddenly realized the value of money. The heavens have parted and a tiny stream of light is shining down on my wallet. Why no, son! Legos don’t grow on trees! So now begins the endless quest to acquire more green; it’s a blessing and a curse.
Now we have the cool Melissa and Doug (I don’t know who the hell these people are, but they are geniuses!) chore chart on the wall complete with cutesy smiley face magnets. My son jumps up and down with the promise of a dollar allowance each week. I jump up and down along with him. I can barely contain my excitement. Can this be? My wildest housewife dreams of having a little helper are finally coming true?
Slowly I begin to notice changes around the house. I walk into my son’s bedroom one morning and stop in my tracks. Huh. How odd. The bed is made. Sure, the blankets look like they’ve been thrown there by a drunken monkey, but someone actually made an effort! I had to stop myself from looking under the bed for a tiny magical elf.
My son runs into the room. “Didya see what I did? Huh? Huh? Didya see?” he gushes.
I give him a quick squeeze. “Yes, I did and I am shocked. I am happy. I’m shappy.”
The next day I wake up and shuffle into the hallway half-dead on the way to the coffee pot. I notice a small pile of clothes shoved into the corner on the floor, a mere few feet from the washer and dryer.
I rub my eyes. Huh. How odd.
Over breakfast I say to my son, “Are you saving those clothes on the floor for later or…?”
He howls over his cereal bowl, “Oh no, Mom! Those are dirty clothes! I put them away for you.”
I nod and look at my husband with a look that says “So I see the clothes don’t fall too far from the washer tree, hmm?” My husband shrugs and tries to look innocent.
After picking up my son’s (and my husband’s) little piles of dirty clothes scattered in various corners throughout the house, (it’s like a little treasure hunt for us moms…what will I find? Pants covered in grass stains? Maybe a lonely mud encrusted sock poking out of a soccer cleat?!) I straighten the crooked blankets on everyone’s beds and head back into the kitchen.
I begin my morning routine of unloading/loading/prewashing/washing/rinsing/pre-rinsing the mountain of dishes in our sink and dishwasher. I curse our constant need for utensils and dishes. Why can’t we just go back to the old days and eat with our hands over a dirt floor?
I peer into the sink. Huh. How odd.
My son rushes over. “See, Mom! I helped put the dishes away! Can I get my dollar now? Huh? Can I? Can I?”
I give him a little hug. “Sure you can. Right after your father goes to Home Depot and buys us an industrial strength garbage disposal that can take care of entire cans of soda, Capri Sun packs and cupcake liners. I see your father fed you breakfast again?” My son grins and skips off.
After scooping the trash out of the sink, I open up the pantry door. Hmm. Why, there’s an unopened package of sliced turkey on top of the tomato soup cans. This chore for cash thing is quickly getting out of hand. My shappy days are quickly turning into shirritated ones. I shudder as a flash of my son “cleaning” our HDTV screen with baby wipes pops into my head.
Well, at least my sweet boy is trying. And God love him for it. I spend the rest of the morning rearranging the groceries.
Later that day while my son is in school, I sneak into his bedroom and inspect his chore chart. Maybe we can give this chore thing another go when he’s in college. I contemplate banishing it to the upper shelf in his closet that is home to Very Bad Ideas that Seemed Great at the Time. It would fit perfectly, right next to his harmonica, guitar and recorder collection. I sigh.
Damn you, Melissa and Doug! Instead I decide to spare the “Help with Indoor Chores” magnet but add the “No Teasing” one. After all, the boy needs loads of help in that area as well. How many times can a middle-aged mom listen to her son ask her why her butt is growing and her wrinkles multiplying?
And so the Housewife Helper dream is fading. I say a little prayer and ask my daughter if she wants to help me bake some banana nut muffins. I smile as she insists on putting on an apron and washing her hands first. There’s still hope yet.
I scoop her up in my arms. “Hey!” I kiss her cheek. “I’ll give you a quarter if you help me cook dinner tonight…”