Friday, April 1, 2011

On Hard Work

Last night I lost an hour and a half of my life to a battle with Annie over putting laundry away, and it's all the roller rink's fault.

See, last Saturday, Annie attended a super-fun birthday party for one of her classmates at the local roller rink.  Never really having skated before, she was understandably a little nervous, so I promised to stay for the first hour of the party to help her and watch her as needed.  She chose in-line skates to rent, strapped them on, and shot out onto the rink, then promptly bailed on its slippery surface over and over.  Her little friends were all adorably helpful:  those girls who knew how to skate were holding hands and supporting the ones who didn't; the new learners were falling and bravely getting right back up and trying again.  When I left, Annie was happily ensconced in a skating threesome, zooming around the rink to Justin Bieber, hardly falling at all.

When I came back to pick her up, she was breathless from happiness (and from skating her butt off for almost three hours).  "Can we take these home?" she asked as I knelt down to unstrap the skates from her hot, sweaty feet.  She talked non-stop on the drive home about how much she loved skating and about how some of her classmates have their very own skates at home.

I was proud of her for so bravely trying a new skill and for practicing something hard - for falling over and over until she got better and faster.  So before we left for our party, I looked up some skates online and found a pair that looked decent.  They were $60.00.

"It's not your birthday or Christmas coming up, and Daddy and I aren't going to just buy you expensive skates for no reason.  If you want to have these to use this summer, you're going to have to do extra chores to earn them," I said.

Annie nodded solemnly.  On Sunday, we brainstormed a list of chores for her to do around the house, and she eagerly checked two or three off that very day.  By yesterday afternoon, only two items remained:  setting and clearing the table, folding and putting away laundry.  After dinner, she brought the dirty plates from the dining room into the kitchen, checked the chore off her list, and went to her room where a pile of clean laundry waited on her bed.  It was 6:00 p.m., and that's when the fun began.

I loaded the dishwasher and then went in to check on Annie.  She was sitting on her bed on top of the pile of clean clothes, playing with a stuffed animal.  She had folded three things.  "This is TOO HARD," she said.  "I don't want to do this!"

"That's fine, but then you won't earn your skates."  I tried to keep my voice as neutral as possible.

Her voice went up an octave.  "I want the skates!" she said.

"Yes, well, then you have to fold the laundry," I replied.

"This is HARD," she repeated.

"Yeah, work is sometimes hard," I agreed, "but you can do this.  Want some music on?"  I reached down, turned on her CD player, and pressed play.  "Good luck!"

But even as I walked out the door, she was wailing at my back.  "Come back!  I want someone to help me!"  And every five minutes or so, she'd come out of her room, repeating:

"This is boring!"

"This is taking forever!"

"This is too hard for me!  I can't do it!"

"I want someone to help me!"

"I'll just buy them MYSELF!"  (This one was silenced pretty quickly after we invited her to count the spending money in her wallet, which totaled $5.13.)

Jason and I took turns repeating little pep talks and her choice:  either do the chore or don't do it, with the consequence of earning or not earning the skates.  When it wasn't our turn to repeat, we would go into our bedroom, fall backward on the bed, and mutter, "For the love . . . this is ridiculous . . . stupid skates . . . never again . . . " while staring at the ceiling and blowing our nose.  (Maybe that was just me.)

Jemma took a bath, brushed her teeth, had a story, went to bed, and still Annie labored through the task, folding one or two things, wailing about the unfairness of it all, going back in to do a little more.  Finally, at 7:30 p.m., a full hour and a half after she started, Annie had folded and put away a single load of her own laundry.  (And I use the term "folded" loosely, but I wasn't about to talk about quality control with a hysterical six-year-old.)

She shut the dresser drawer and flopped back on her bed as dramatically as possible.  I went and sat on the bed's edge and looked her right in the eye.

"Annie, was that hard work?" I asked.

"Yes."  She rolled her eyes and sighed.

"But did you do it all by yourself?"

A small, reluctant smile.  "Yes."

"Next time," Jason said from the doorway, "I don't want to hear that complaining.  If you do that again, the chore isn't going to count."

I handed her the marker and told her to go check the last chore off her list, thinking that we have a long way to go before she makes the generations of hardy Dutch farm stock in her family tree proud of her work ethic.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! I'd call that a success by any measure! (Though not any fun for you, I'm sure.) Good for you and Jason for staying calm and measured. And GOOD FOR ANNIE for making it all the way through!