Who knew an impromptu trip to the pet store could work out so well for me?
This morning the girls and I were headed to the library so I could deal with some issues–my last large bag of library books, which I returned last week never showed up as "checked in" on my account. Thankfully, I know which librarian it was–the grumpy one with really strong perfume, I wrote a check to pay my fines, (Yes, I write checks sometimes to pay for our library fines. Just doing what I can to support the local library.) and I knew exactly which books I had returned.
But at some point along the drive, Emma asked if we could please go to the pet store. I get this request several times a week, and I always turn it down. But you know how sometimes, you say no so many times in a row, for no particular reason, that finally, you just have to say yes.
So I did my library business at the drive-in window and we detoured to the much longed-for pet store.
We wandered the aisles. I let the girls stand, faces plastered against all the cages and tanks. I answered questions, I said no to every request for dog treats and cat toys–I left my wallet in the car. And then finally, we left…three red-faced, weeping girls dragging along with me out to the parking lot.
You might be wondering how this could have possibly turned out well for me, but just wait. It gets better.
Elizabeth was crying because I had to peel her pudgy fingers off the cage bars of the gerbils. Emma was crying because she had already named, and grown emotionally invested with one honey-colored hamster, and dear Mary was crying because she just wanted another plecostomus.
At first, I began my mother diatribe about how "I was going to remember this next time they asked to visit the pet store." And, "you have four kittens, six chicks and five guineas to love and take care of at home.", etc. etc. None of it was doing any good. None of it was doing anything to stop the wailing in the back of the car.
But then my wheels started turning. I remembered that I was in the process of establishing a chore system with the girls and thinking about letting them begin to earn an allowance. So we spent the rest of the trip home discussing these new ideas.
I still don't have all the kinks worked out in my system yet, but all the girls heard was DO CHORES + EARN MONEY = BUY THE HAMSTER/PLECOSTOMUS MYSELF!!
The conversation in the car immediately took a turn. From Mary, "Mom I promise I will never make you angry again. Mom. I promise I will always clean up after myself, even when I don't really want to. Mom. What chores do you want me to finish when I get home? Mom. I promise you are the best mom I've ever heard of."
From Emma: "Mom, I'm going to make my bed, clean the whole downstairs, mop the kitchen floor, and clean Elizabeth's room when we get home. How much money do I need to get a hamster? I already have about sixty dollars, I think. (she has maybe, three.) I'm guessing by like next week, no the end of this week, I'll be going back to get my hamster."
We got home and they barreled out of the car. By the time Elizabeth and I got inside, they were tying aprons on each other, talking like Laura and Mary Ingalls, and heading upstairs to make their beds. I just stood back and let the magic happen. They made their beds, picked up laundry and brought it to the washing machine, picked up the bathroom floor, washed the windows in their room. Emma cleaned Elizabeth's room and laid out a diaper and PJs for naps. Mary picked up her toys in the hallway, and even carried things back downstairs to their proper place. (that never happens!)
It was like having a team of merry maids arrive in my home. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing. Brings a tear to my eye. Finally, when they began plans to clean out a closet I pulled back on the reins and brought them back into their room for a talk.
I told them how happy I was, and told them I would work on a system so that we could keep this kind of thing up, and yes, they'd be able to earn a little money in order to save up for their pets. I gave them each fifty cents for their enthusiasm and we called it a day.
I'll let you know when I figure out my system. But for now, I'm still enjoying the post-pet store high. We might just have to go back tomorrow.
27 comments on “a worthwhile detour”
And we just call them “sucker fish”. What a cool name. Oh, and my boys work for change to buy legos…we have a chart, the top half is for “chores” they do just because they are part of our family. Pick up their clothes, make their bed, pick up the toy room, put their bikes in the garage, etc. But the bottom half are things I “WISH” they did or things they think of that would otherwise be helpful. They do not get paid for the first section. But they get quarters for each chore completed after that. If any of the top section is not completed at the end of the week, they have to give back that many of their quarters (to pay me for completing the work they should have done). I dont know if this makes sense, but it works for us…really, really well. Plus they are learning about $$ right now in 1st grade so its double good. 🙂
I think that we’re almost at the chore chart/allowance stage. Eren, I like your “have to” vs “bonus” chores; I think it teaches responsibility. This is excellent, Molly.
Oh my goodness, that is too cute!
Recently we had a similar announcement from our girl. She and her daddy mopped the living room floor one day, and she said, “Mopping is fun! I’m going to do this every week. No, wait. When Mama has her Teaching Day (the dreadful day when I have cello students and their mothers traipsing into my living room to see our messes), I will clean the whole living room by myself and sweep and mop while she Takes A Nap. And when I’m ten, I will clean the kitchen and wash all the dishes, because ten year olds don’t really like messy houses but they don’t really need to play very much.” Ha! So funny.
Nice!! Can they come to my house and show my kids how it’s done?
Annika will clean anything as long as it involves spraying the cleaner on a surface and wiping it up. Picking up? Forget about it. Gunnar is a sweeper and also not a picker upper. He does love to do the yardwork though, so I guess I can’t complain. The chore chart is helping somewhat, so I figure they’ll be all set by the time they leave for college!
HA HA HA thats great!Im going to have to take my kids to the pet store!
Wow, I can’t WAIT until my kids are old enough to actually put two and two together and will CLEAN for money!! I hope it lasts in your house 😉
Hi…I’m a first-year college student who has been reading your lovely blog for a while now, and finally thought I’d comment. When I get so caught up in homework and classes, your words remind me that there is more to life, more to a person, than the semester grades. It brings much-needed perspective, and then I realize I will one day be in college no longer. Your simple observations about your daughters and your everyday optimism make me look forward to becoming a mother. I’m inspired by your parenting methods and the pictures you take! Your daughters look beautiful (and I love their aprons! so cute!) Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for writing. I hope when I am a mother I will have the grace and wisdom you possess.
I just love the pics of them in their aprons!
see, now unfortunately dominic has his heart set on a boa constrictor…
They are adorable in their aprons! Its amazing what they CAN do so young! Nothing like a little incentive. =)
you’re brilliant. you are. (and eren’s system sounds fantastic!)
ps. still waiting for the you-know-whats!
I really like Eren’s payment system–especially the part about the children giving back money for unfinished chores.
In our system the girls get 5 single dollar bills per week. 2 go in a savings jar, 1 goes in a charity jar, 2 go in a spending jar. This is not tied to chores. We have a big chore chart that includes everyone’s weekly chores (including Mom and Dads). They get paid for extras such as washing windows, vacuuming the car, stacking wood.
I love the idea of charging them for uncompleted chores 🙂 Gotta think about that.
Great Idea! I decided this past week to clamp down with my girls. I’m tired of the wailing, the mess and the tantrums because they can’t have something they want. I’m starting a chore chart (haven’t quite worked out how yet), then they can save for what they want to buy.I’m also experimenting with their diets. They had blue lolly pops yesterday and all hell broke loose afterwards. My oldest wailed all the way to the library and home again for no apparent reason. I think she had actually forgot why she was crying but just carried on anyway. I switched off and smiled to my inner self and ignored the looks from passers by 🙂
The aprons, I cannot get over the aprons.
A hamster now, an elephant in ten years! Lol. Really, great idea. I’m impressed with your quick, industrious response.
Excellent idea. I have tried everything and NO ONE every helps! Let me know any other ideas you come up with mine are not working.
Okay, so the cleaning is awesome, and the mommy is fantastic, but I could hardly read any of it at all for all the bright shiny CUTENESS going on in these photos! Your girlies are so precious! You tell ’em I’ll buy them all the hamsters they want if they can just get themselves (and their mama) to Texas 🙂
Superb!We’re organising a ‘job jar’ from your babycenter post and think we’re going to have 2, one for the family stuff and one for monetary gain!
I adore the apron photos…my 3 opt for Annie style dress when it comes to housework and sing “It’s a hard knock life” at the top of their voices!
Do yours have a housework themetune?
What a fantastic idea. I am going to adopt it as soon as the girls get home from school! We are having major issues over tidying at the moment, so this could be our solution!Cathy X
you smart cookie, you.
Molly, you are such an amazing person! I not only wish I had the childhood your girls have but that I can give my children one similar. Your blog is fascinating – the pictures, the mundane being anything but mundane, the anecdotes and helpful hints – it’s great! I’ll stop lavishing praise on you now for fear of becoming that creepy girl who pays way too much attention to your family 🙂
What an inspiring turn of events!
Now you do realise that you are going to end up with a menagerie don’t you? Very clean house full to busting with animals!!
i love this story! i wonder how long the thrill will last….
Well done I think I need to start something like this in my house
I just purchased an older book “Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees” b Neale S. Godfrey. This is a parents guide to raising financially responsible children. I bought it so that we might use it to help some kids at church. You can maybe get it at the library.