Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Throw the Tiger in the Whirlpool: Why I love our á la Carte Chore Board

I have not been very good about giving the children an allowance for doing daily chores. I started a few times but got tired of nagging them to do the chores, and instead of leaving their chores un-done so they could bear witness to their slovenly ways, I'd succumb to my mild OCD and make their beds and clean up their messes. Sometimes, I would pay them even though they hadn't actually completed the chores which taught them nothing about getting paid for working, but instead primed them for a future as county road crew workers. We've always ended up back in the same place, scrapping the allowance and me doing everything.

Recently, I took a different approach, one that gave the kids the option of earning money on a per-chore basis. I think that when I've finished telling you all about the how this system has worked, you'll agree that it's vastly superior than just giving a straight allowance. I made a chore board where I post different chores that I would like the children to perform and assign each chore a monetary value. So, making your bed gets you .25 and taking out the garbage is .75. Value is determined by frequency, grossness, and duration of a given chore. This valuation system is no different from society where long-haul commercial fisherman earn more than Justin Beiber. Oh wait, no. Clearly my value system needs some tweaking to put it in line with American society. Five cents for scrubbing the toilet and ten million dollars for making up racist song lyrics. Better now. Anyway, here are some (as yet unperformed) tasks on our chore board:

This way the kids are earning money only for the work they've actually done (novel concept, I know). I wish I'd thought of this years ago because would be a freaking millionaire.

You'll notice that I helpfully included pictures of the chores so that the Baby (who "can read a little bit. Little words like if and it") would be able to participate in the fun. The problem, of course, is that I am not very artistic and the Baby interpreted this card:

to mean that she should throw the tiger in a whirlpool. "What tiger?" I asked. "I don't know," she wailed. "I'm afraid of tigers. I don't want to throw it in the whirlpool." I'll give her that the leash is hard to identify, mostly because the Dog's leash is never neatly coiled like the one in the picture. It's typically hanging halfway off one of the kitchen stools. But, that animal is clearly a dog (or maybe a fox) but definitely not a tiger.

Then, I was like, "Well, if you're so great at drawing, maybe you'd like to make a card." So she did:

If I didn't know that is supposed to be a toilet, I'd wonder why she was offering a dollar for someone to fix a limbless torso's umbilical hernia. But, since I know it's a toilet, I'm just hoping that the black spot in the center of the toilet is the hole that sucks down all the waste water and not a floater.

Some of my chore requests have been unique to problems that I've noticed around the house:

I'd wager that very few people have offered their children cash money to clean pollen and chalk off the front door. It's a stinging indictment of my housekeeping "skills" that pollen season is in early April and it took until the end of May for me to get around to thinking about cleaning pollen off the door, a task that can be easily accomplished in two minutes. Even as I painstakingly drew this mediocre picture I thought to myself, "in the time that it's taken you to write this all out, you could have totally cleaned the front door."

No system is perfect, and it has backfired a couple of times when the "help" I received was more helpful in theory than in fact. The Girl "helped" me clean out the pantry by spilling the contents of the two-story spice carousel all over the floor. While she was vacuuming up a pile of paprika she asked if she got paid the going rate of $1.50 for vacuuming. I said hell no, because I went to law school and know a slippery slope when I see it. Next thing you know, the kids will be throwing shit everywhere and offering to clean it up...for a price.

Yesterday, I was upstairs folding laundry (at .75 a load, the kids took a pass on that chore, but I'll be trading in the swagger wagon for a Tesla any day now), and the Girl called from downstairs. "Mom, there's something in the backyard that you need to see." Immediately, I thought that the Dog had finally succeeded in digging her way to China and was sitting in the backyard eating a big plate of Mu Shu Pork. I should be so lucky. "Is it bad?" I asked. "You won't like it," she said. "There's a dead squirrel in the yard." I made my disgusted face, which looks like Grumpy Cat, but without fur and my tongue sticking out. I peered out our back door and could see a small grey lump in the grass.

Before I actually went outside, I did what anyone with a problem does these days: I begged for help on the Internet:

Armed with helpful advice, I bravely went outside to assess the carcass. Much to my horror, the "squirrel" was not a squirrel at all, but a squirrel-sized rat. You know how Indiana Jones hates snakes? That's me with rats. You're sitting there thinking, it's a dead rodent, who cares whether it has a fluffy squirrel tail or a skinny rat tail? Me, totally! Squirrels are out in the open, running up and down trees and playing chicken in the street. Rats are in the shadows like that secret Internet where you can hire contract killers and buy child pornography. Thus, in my mind rats=pedophile assassins.

So, I marched back inside and made a new chore card:

Because my children are basically mercenaries, they were all on board (after the Baby asked why I wanted to give a flower stem to a vomiting opossum). Armed with a shovel and a garbage bag, we carefully approached the rat. I was totally expecting it to spring to life like Glenn Close did in Fatal Attraction, but the flies swarming all over the body made it clear that it was pretty dead. Gag. The Boy held a garbage bag open as I shoveled the corpse inside. Of course, as soon as the body thumped into the bag, the Boy dropped it like a bad habit and ran away. But we got it in there on one try, which was pretty miraculous considering I literally did it with my eyes closed.

So, go ahead and scour Pinterest for allowance and chore methods dreamed up by perky moms who named their six kids after counties in Colorado. But be careful. Don't get drawn in by their fancy fonts and graphics. Just ask yourself, "how will this system work if I need help fencing stolen goods, or laundering money, or cleaning up a rat body in my back yard?" Because when the rubber meets the road, do you really want your kid to be like, "sorry, not in my job description" and leave you holding the bag (or holding the shovel without anyone to help hold the bag)? Of course not. You want the option to bribe monetarily encourage their cooperation. This is real life where rats look like this:

Not this:


  1. Hilarious! Love this. Glad you posted the link on Facebook.

  2. I don't have a google account so I am anonymous but I laughed until I cried reading this. Thanks for the laugh! You are a great writer.
    Melissa Smith - lawyer who feels guilty for not staying home with her kids, but I secretly maybe feel guilty that I don't feel guilty enough??

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