Sunday, July 12, 2009

I Don't Think He Got The Memo

Children need help with all sorts of areas that involve comprehension. Some need work on reading comprehension. Some need help with math comprehension. I'm dealing with a Banshee who desperately needs a crash course in reality comprehension.

To wit: understanding contract law.

Now I know this doesn't sound like standard curriculum for a nearly-nine-year-old but believe me, I have my reasons. They all know, to one degree or another, that there aren't going to be allowances in this family. If they want walking around money, they are going to have to earn it. This has led to a series of very hare-brained schemes that were close-on to 100% wishful thinking -- goodness knows that I love those snippets of crayon-smeared typing paper, but I don't think a passing motorist will stop and cough up $5 for one. Neither do I think that hastily pulled up flowers stuck in a paper towel will net much moolah, I don't care how cute my children are. MB has taken wishful thinking to whole new levels lately, however. I asked him to go get the mail yesterday, he came back and asked for a mail-gathering fee. He got 15 minutes of the basics of contract law: offer, acceptance, consideration -- and learned a new word: Unilaterally. As in: he doesn't get to impose a contract unilaterally. He got another 15 minutes on family law, at least as it runs under my roof: he doesn't get paid for family business. Family business includes but is not limited to: making beds, doing laundry, folding laundry, washing dishes, picking up after themselves, and minding the ducks. Oh yes, and under the picking up after yourselves clause is the clearly delineated subsection of clear your place at the table. Because we're sort of catch-as-catch-can mealwise during the day, the rules have evolved to: If you're hungry, go feed yourself -- but pick up and wash after. Simple, right?

They. Don't. Do. It.

Normally this is a mild frustration, akin to having your fingernails pulled out millimeter by millimeter. The hard part of parenting is not sex ed, it isn't driver training, it isn't dragging them kicking and screaming through algebra or dangling participles, it's the deadly repetitive nature of having to say the same things several hundred times a day. That, along with the Tribble-like nature of dishes, dirty clothes, and toys on the living room floor, accounts for a good 73% of my current state of insanity. (13% finances, 7% spouse, 11% ducks and I already know that's more than 100% but that goes hand in hand with the "it's been that sort of week today" moments I get.)

MB has been very very very consistent today with leaving his dishes on the table, despite being told (mumble mumble darn I've run out of fingers) several times that he needs to take care of it. Now. I've been trying to cut back on the screaming, yelling, ranting, raving, frothing at the mouth, and other habits that the Banshees find highly entertaining but that are otherwise sort of useless as behavior-modifications go. Removing favorite toys and grounding doesn't work, as well as being sort of akin to hitting a fly with a Cadillac anyway. But weeding the front yard works. So far it's had 100% success rate. This will change eventually, but as long as it's effective whoo-hoo! I'm going for it.

So MB and I did the dirty-dish-dance again today and at the end of it, he got sentenced to yardwork. He did the yardwork, came inside and said, "I think that's worth $5." What for? "For the weeding, of course."

Here come our old friends, family law and contract law. I explained to him that weeding the yard was the price he had to pay for ignoring a family rule. And I defined unilateral again and pointed out that if he dredged up the old I'm entitled we were going to go back to ranting and raving and hours-long lectures again AND he'd still have to do the yardwork without pay.

I'm in big trouble if he ever figures out that he could clean the entire yard down to the dirt for pay before he breaks a serious rule.