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.