So we have this system around here.
It’s the nickel system.
Each week, the kids each start out with $1 in nickels.
Each time they misbehave, they lose a nickel. (And for an extra fun twist, if they hit or kick their sibling, they lose a nickel and the offended sibling gains a nickel. Watch the fireworks people. Nothing adds fuel to the sibling rivalry fire like watching your sibling earn nickels at your expense.)
But they can also earn nickels by treating their siblings nicely, or doing chores, etc.
So at the end of the month, there are several rewards they can earn based on the amount of nickels they have left in their cup. Just for your enjoyment, I’ll tell you what my daughter Kate, the highest earner last month, chose for herself: $1.99 potty putty. Really? Yep, and if you’ve never seen it, it is pretty stinkin’ funny. And that pun was totally intended, thought out, well-planned. Moving right along…
So last night, the children were floating around, with not a lot to do. Which is when the trouble usually starts, by the way.
William decided he would like to help me. I’m going to assume his motives were totally philanthropic. But it could be because he had lost a few nickels that morning, and he was looking to earn them back. And he’s really trying to get that big prize at the end of the month.
So I told him he could fold the laundry in the chair. And the moment I said it, Henry started over toward the chair to help out, and earn himself a nickel, too.
You would think that this laundry was the holy grail of kid-pleasure or something. William glowered at him, and very seriously threatened “HENRY, DON’T YOU TOUCH THIS LAUNDRY! I’M FOLDING IT!”
At the time, I didn’t realize the hilarity of that comment.
Henry immediately welled up with his four-year-old-I-can-produce-them-at-will tears, and cries “But what can I do?”
So I told him to set the table.
Henry is setting the table, and William is folding the laundry. Kate is quietly observing, as she so often does. You see, she has figured out the system. All you have to do is behave, and you really don’t have to do any extra work. Then you get your prize at the end.
Oh, she is sly.
But always well-behaved.
Meanwhile, William has finished the laundry, and wants to earn more. So he goes over to the table to hijack the table setting help Henry.
And I lavishly praise my boys for helping me out so much.
It is at this point that Kate sees where she’s missing out. Because she does like her some praise. I’m watching her, and she’s kind of twitchy…she’s watching. And she’s thinking about getting up to help out. Because when everyone is helping, it honestly becomes kind of fun.
The kitchen is a-buzz; the nickels, they are a-flowin’. The table is set, and it’s set all fancy, too, because that’s how the kids like it. And I smile at their work.
I have a feeling everyone is going to be getting their choice of prizes this month.
And I sit here imagining that in a year or two, I’ll be kicking back with a glass of wine while the slave labor prepares dinner, does the laundry and cleans the house, all for a nickel.
This new system of mine just might work out.