Oh, the joys of parenting and finding our way through traditions and guidelines. I must honestly say, it amazes me (frequently) how often I reflect back on my childhood as a Cliff Notes of sorts to parenting.
Most recently this came in the way of reflecting on allowance versus household responsibility.
Admittedly, when my son was five we implemented an allowance type system, which allowed him to earn money for designated duties (making his bed, feeding the pets, etc.). Two years ago our family foot print was altered. This change prompted a number of things to change, as daily life and how we get through it became drastically different.
Needless to say making the bed, feeding the pets, even taking out the trash became responsibilities my children needed to take on to help mommy. Fortunately, allowance had not yet become ingrained in either of them so the lack of payment for helping with such things eluded them. Juggling life in general kept my head spinning so to have remembered something as ‘minor’ as allowance was just not happening.
Since then, things have settled quite a bit for our family. My children have become a unit I honestly do not recognize on some days. As an only child it’s both fun and interesting for me to watch how this sibling dynamic operates. Best of buddies at one moment and mortal enemies the very next. Ultimately at the end of it all I witness what brings me the most pride and pleasure - they are indeed a cohesive unit. When one is in trouble the other shows visible sadness (most times).
My oldest has developed into an avid reader and while I recognize e-books are not far off in our future, currently I enjoy witnessing the building of his library. Maybe it’s because I work in the age-old profession of a printed newspaper, but I love the idea and nostalgia of cracking open a book. It’s a novelty now wasted on our society for the most part. My son is the kid whom spends days counting down until his scholastic book order arrives at school. There is just no way around it… in my world… that is good stuff.
He is also a fan of the library and learning to appreciate the beauty and speediness of Amazon.com as he recently finished the first of a book in a three part series. Devastated by the ending of a book which had occupied so much of his days and eager to see what was next, we quickly broke out the laptop and ordered the next book to the series.
Naturally his scholastic book order form came home the next day and while it did not hold the book we had just ordered it did have another in a series he continues to read as well. Quickly realizing his passion was beginning to dent my bank account, I suggested perhaps he pay for the scholastic book which had an $8 price tag.
In the way of spending money, my son is quickly becoming book poor. He takes his wallet anytime we head out ‘just in case’ he finds a book. So, his wallet was short $3 for his scholastic desires. I offered him a compromise to try and both help him, as well as myself.
Pet clean-up is just not fun… for anyone. So, I suggested in exchange for the $3 he could ‘clean-up’ after the dog for the month. To my surprise he declined. He offered that he was pretty sure he could ‘dig-up’ enough change to make the $3.
Stunned and slightly annoyed (if being completely honest), my proposition quickly changed. I am the grown-up after all and I exercise my right to play that card when necessary.
Long story short, dog pick-up is now a permanent part of my son’s responsibilities and the cat box my daughter’s. My son was able to pay for his Scholastic book order and in exchange I learned a valuable lesson.
The argument in favor of an allowance and its purpose always seems to stem back to teaching financial responsibility. The funny thing is, I grew up with an allowance and was tremendously irresponsible with my money. I liked shopping- a lot. I was so bad in fact, that when I was a teen my aunt offered to match every dollar I saved for a set period of time. Ultimately the end result was that I had twice as much money to spend and I did.
So, as for our house, we do not exercise the notion of allowance. We work as a team – completely. In exchange, when my son falls short a few dollars I help him….. just as he helps me.