Dear organized mothers (and fathers) of the world. I humbly apologize to you on this dark day of recognition. I have mocked you and mentally tripped you down the hall in the school of Parenting only to find that you’re not the anal perky freaks I always thought you were. But rather, anal perky parents who may be just one step ahead of the curve. Once I finally shut my mouth and stopped rolling my eyes and gave your goody-two-shoes way of life a try, I realized you may be on to something. And as much fun as it truly is to ridicule you with my fellow, shall we say, cool moms, I want you to know that when I recognize I’m wrong I admit it. I admit it to you today and I hope you can forgive me.
I, probably like a lot of you, think my children are insanely brilliant and creative virtuosos. I marvel at so much they say and do. Even when they’re doing something stupid like trying to fly by jumping off the kitchen table. Hey, at least they thought to use plastic grocery bags as parachutes. Ingenious, right? We’ve moved on though from wanting to fly to wanting to be, as my 6-year-old says, a work-man on a construction site. But not just any ol’ brick layer or crane operator. My son wants to be the boss. He wears his work-man uniform and walks around giving orders into his walkie- talkies. His room has become “headquarters” where he tells his “work buddies” how to get the job done. On his desk he has all the essentials a work man needs; Stacks of crisp white paper along with small notebooks filled with important notes, a calculator, a cup full of pens, pencils, and erasers, and a clock to know when it’s quitting time. Sometimes he helps his fellow work buddies on the job by playing with his Legos, and other times he enlists outside help from his little sister. Though she’s not very good. I heard her get fired 3 times in one day. I love watching him construct different scenarios for his job site and trying his damnedest to make it as real as possible. Sometimes during dinner, he’ll ask his father, who used to work on construction sites, question after question about what it’s really like. My husband actually enjoyed the work (most the time) and has no problem helping Boss Man Tommy envision every nook and crane-y. (Ha, ha! Get it? Crane-y. Sorry bad joke. 🙂 )
So, because of this new obsession of his, I was not surprised or confused when he asked me, “Mom, can we go to the store and buy me a clip board? I need it for my office.” I said what I always say when I don’t feel like going anywhere. “We’ll talk about it later.” And boy did we ever! All damn day long it’s all he could talk about. It’s all he would talk about! I’d ask him to clean his room. He’d ask me if we can get the clip board when he’s done. I ask him if he wants to color with me. He asks me if clip boards come in green. I yell at him for teaching his little sister to grab herself and cry, “My nuts!” (which actually was kinda funny coming from a 2-year-old). He yells at me because he doesn’t have a clip board to play with instead of teaching her bad things. It was back and forth all day long. I finally had had enough. “You’re not getting the damn clip board!” I roared after he threw a fit about what we were having for dinner. Well that didn’t help things. He just threw a bigger fit and said he hates me.
That kinda broke my heart.
That night when I put him to bed he was still mad at me. And it made me mad at him. Why should he be mad at me because I’m depriving him of this one little thing? Didn’t we just have Christmas where he got a million dollars worth of toys? And didn’t he just have a birthday where he got another 1/2 a million dollars worth of toys? And where are those toys??? Why can’t he just play with those??? Noooooo! We have to have something new! Who does he think he is? He thinks we should just spend MY hard-earned money to buy him whatever he wants. Like he’s entitled to it! Well I’ll be damned if I’m gonna raise my son to be one of those self-righteous lazy little brats who think the world OWES them something! forget it! I decided he was NOT getting ANYTHING else EVER again unless he EARNS it!
Then I got off my high horse and realized that’s easier said than done. To earn something he would actually have to do something and getting him to do anything besides play was like World War III around here. Last time I asked him to bring me his laundry from his room he threw himself on his unmade bed and cried, “Why oh why does my mom hate me!?!?” (Yes, he really IS that dramatic.)
I talked to Steven about it, and he was a lot more positive than I was. “let’s just have him help us with stuff around the house, and if he does it without throwing a fit we’ll take him this weekend to get a clip board.” He makes it sound so simple, doesn’t he?
When I shared this idea with my disgruntled kindergartener he screamed, “THAT IS NOT FAIR!” and wouldn’t listen to reasoning (surprise, surprise.) Actually he had some reasoning of his own. “I already have the money! Let’s just go!” It was true. The kid has more cash hidden in his room than I have in my bank account. My mind skipped ahead 10 years to him being yet another spoiled brat with his own MTV reality show. How can I get him to get it? “Well you have to earn the car ride TO the store.” I argued back. Ha, ha! Victory!
Then, some time in the middle of the night it just kind of hit me. We’d have to make a production of it. We’d have to do something to make him feel special about the tasks he was performing. I thought back to all those parenting magazines I’ve read over the years and realized what I’d have to do. I’d have to at least try the one thing I always made fun of. I’d have to resort to making… a chore chart.
Even saying those words made me sick to my stomach…though that could be the pregnancy. It just seemed so “Look at me and my chore chart. La tee da!” I’m not a chore chart mom, am I? I thought I was a “do what I say or die” mom. But if that ain’t workin’ I guess I have to try something new, right?
And it worked! When he came home from school that day I showed him the chart and explained if he did 5 jobs each day for the rest of the week, then on Saturday night we’d go get the clip board. Oh he was so excited. He got started immediately! He cleaned up his lunch mess INCLUDING the pile of mac and cheese that fell onto and under the table! He made his bed! Really made! No wrinkles or anything! He brought his laundry to the laundry room for me. Which sucked for me cause suddenly I had 6 loads of laundry to do, but at least they were in there. It was all so wonderful! So perfect! I nearly cried when he picked up some toys and put them INSIDE the toy box. Amazing. Simply amazing.
And then the next day came and it was all over. I shouldn’t say ‘all over’. He still did the work, but all that wonderful excitement had left the building. And we argued. I hate arguing over doing something as simple as picking up your dinner plate, but we did. Right up until I said, “Fine then! No clip board!” At the mention of the ‘c’ word, he jumped into action. It was too late for my stress level though. I wanted to throw the stupid chore chart in the trash.
Day 3 was better though. I didn’t have to ask him to make his bed! And when I mentioned the chore chart he said, “Mom, I know my ‘sponsibilities. You don’t have to tell me.” Oh… well…okay then. Pardon me!
On Saturday the excitement returned! He checked the chart several times after I told him it was clip board day and did the work quickly and correctly. Oh, and I didn’t remind him of his ‘sponsibilities but rather just asked, “Do we need to put a sticker on the chart yet?” By dinner time that night he had made his bed, swept out the couch, helped me fold laundry, cleaned the kitchen table and got extra points for being super nice to his little sister.
As promised, that night, we went to Staples and got a clip board. It took him about 4 days to figure out which one he wanted, but he settled for a good ol’ fashion plain wood one that only cost me about $3.00. Score! This was much much better than giving him an allowance!
I’ll say though that I did worry about the next week. Would he still want the chart once he had his precious clip board? Well turns out, yes! On the way home he asked if we could put up another chore chart so he could earn a few other things he spotted at the office supply store. Most the things he picked out were super cheap so why not!?!?
So, once again, to all of you who I have laughed at for making things like chore charts, I apologize. It turned out to work really well for my little helper. Just please don’t tell the other cool moms about this.
Thanks for reading!!!