Saturday, September 18, 2010

Free $ or Child Labour?

How do you administer the dole?

There seem to be 3 schools of thought:

1) Make them work for it

2) Make them divide it up responsibly

3) Just give it to them and let 'em do whatever they want with it - sheesh.

I, being a near professional fence walker, have decided to apply a combination of all of the above.

When it seemed like time to give our girl an allowance, a few very debatable questions arose. First one - should she have to work for it? My initial instinct was, heck ya. How else will she know the value? It was then pointed out that WE don’t get paid to clear the table or to make our beds. Perhaps these tasks could be framed as “Household Responsibilities”, things that are expected of us and don’t hold monetary value. So in order to avoid committing to any one school of thought, we've kept her allowance meager in order to allow for ‘work opportunities’. So if she wants to save enough to buy a WII, she can scrub spots off the walls. For a long time. (OK, I’ll admit it. We’re cheap. And we’ve found a way to feel good about it.) Bonus dough is there to be made with little extra jobs around the house. Cleaning her room and clearing the table remain mandatory.

In my search for kiddie finance wisdom I came across the 3 Jar Method. I need these jars! (May seem elementary to some of you, but I’m financially challenged and am one step away from storing my savings under the mattress.) This brilliant system just seemed too responsible not to explore, although enforcing it feels a tad controlling… But really, I have so many other enticing areas of her life to micro manage! With fingers crossed, I presented my daughter with the 3 Jar Method and thankfully she was game. But in retrospect, what 6 year old wouldn’t like the idea of decorating jars and playing banker?

As it stands, our daughter puts $1 in each jar every weekend and is responsible for cleaning her room and clearing her spot at the dinner table not because her allowance depends on it, but because…well, it’s a hard knock life. Has she bit the carrot and made herself rich with endless odd jobs while her dad and I lounge in our spotless palace? Far from it. Turns out, this girl doesn’t have a capitalist bone in her body. If a clean bedroom wasn’t an absolute requirement, her Dad and I would be navigating boas and Barbie combs to kiss her good night while she lay in her pigsty bed, gleefully broke.

Of course, our system is very much customized to our daughter’s personality (and my half-assedness). So when it comes to the dole, what’s your deal?

Monday, September 6, 2010

The ball, The Chain, The Homework

Ack!  As we review the limp and rather stained lunch box, assess how many inches from the floor the bottoms of Mr The King's jeans are now rising, and search for last year's pencils in the folds of the couch and car, our thoughts turn to the most harrowing of all back-to-school comes HOMEWORK!

Unlike many of you, I have not been pulling out workbooks all summer and preventing the draining of the brain.  Mr The King has been spoiled in true style with wading pools and grandparent visits, bicycles, playdates, squirt guns, barbeques, baseball, popsicles, concerts and water parks...and he's realizing that it's all about to come crashing to an end.

"I'm not going to grade 3.  Won't be there.  Can't make me...I'm not scared of school...I'm scared of TEACHERS!" know,  I think I am too!  I'm already stressing (privately) about how we'll get our student shackled to the table and get down to business.  Second Grade homework was a bit of a Gong Show.  He didn't bring it home half the time,  and when he was forced to pull it out of his backpack and uncrumple it, he looked at it in horror as if it were his toothbrush (whole other story).  I'm talking 45 minutes of 'process' for a 15 minute task.  Am I alone here?  Many children I know have much more of a work ethic.  I liked the accomplishment of homework,  my husband just didn't bother arguing with his parents,  and most of my friends' kids are much more task-friendly than our guy.   Much, though not all, of his learning problems are about this unwillingness to just plain Work.

This year needs to be very different.  I need to give homework a solid spot in our schedule and I need to work it around the school day, dinner, soccer practice, cub scouts....somewhere before bedtime...hmmmm...when do you pull out the homework chair and play prison guard?  Am I being overdramatic?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Value of Prunes

Motherhood is a neurotic time, and I'm not one to miss out on opportunities for self-inflicted torture. But really, it's our job to keep babies alive (No pressure!) and as a result, us parents spend gross amounts of time imagining their demise. Or at least I do. These days, the seasonal nightmare that loops in my subconscious involves drowning. #1 cause of accidental death for kids, after all. Knowing this you'd think I'd have my daughter in swimming lessons but they've never been convenient for us, she's never begged for them, and frankly, I don't want to have to wax my bikini line that often. Have I mentioned that I'm a bad mother? Good news is I've discovered a single wax approach that's way more fun than the bi-weekly gridlock to the petri dish! It's called...wait for it... The Family Vacation! With limitless access to a hotel pool, we racked up a good 24 hours of consecutive swimming time (breaking only for snacks and naps) while our daughter went from a terrifyingly weak dog paddler to swimming laps with the breast stroke and scavenging pool toys 7.5 feet under just for kicks. As long as she loses the high-pitched dog whistle that squeaks from her nose (chlorine anyone?), I think we've come out ahead and have one more great reason to take family vacations.
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