The Audacity Of Hope

Sunday is allowance day at our house. Every week, we sit down for dinner and half-way through the kids 'gently remind' us that they haven't received their allowance yet by saying, "Hey, you owe us $5." They do this because they realize that we're A) old B) not elephants and C) off our fish oil supplements, and therefore have the memory of your common household door-stop.

Luckily for us, our eyeglass prescriptions are up-to-date, so we can see the mountains of boxers and socks piled up on the couch, the pencil shavings cleverly swept behind the trash can and the obscure hieroglyphics adorning the walls. And we giggle at our silly children and tell them to eat more broccoli.

It used to be that they were paid by the chore. If I've learned anything about men all these years, it's that the way to their heart is through their wallets. You want a man to do something? Pay him. Payment, of course, negotiable by age and relationship to you. My boys never wanted to be "good helpers to their momma!" like my daughter does...they wanted Pokemon cards. Lots and lots of Pokemon cards.

We had a massive dry erase board hung in their room with a column down the left of all the chores we'd like them to do, and a row across the top with the days of the week. It went a little something like this:

People, I write. I never said I could draw.

It taught them word recognition and addition and a little self-reliance. They filled out the chart all by themselves; I simply shelled out shiny quarters and head pats at week's end.

But now that they're older, they're not contracted laborers anymore...they are salaried employees. I'm not trying to get them in the habit of doing chores by bribing them anymore, I'm trying to instill the concept of a work. And if you don't do your job, all of it, bitch don't get paid, yo. So the days of "X chore=X dollar" are over, and the days of "You have five days to complete these four tasks" are upon us. They don't do all four? They don't get their allowance. Period. I suck.

But Captain Selective and his first mate, Memory, choose to forget this every week and instead take out the trash on Saturday night and then wait with hopeful hearts and outstretched hands for magical golden coins to fall from the sky. I keep trying to tell them that magical coins only fall from the sky when strangers wearing bedazzaled tights break into their rooms at night and steal their teeth, but for some reason, that just gives them nightmares. However, months weeks of no allowance are taking their toll, and my kids are starting to fight back. They are hoping against hope. They are getting cocky.

I found my oldest son's locker dry erase board hanging on the fridge, offered without comment, on Monday morning after he went off to school.

"Allowence: Put under magnet. I'll get it later."

Maybe the boy can't spell for shit, but he's got 'strong-armed negotiation of the terms of his own existence' down to a silent, arrogant artform.