We've always given them school supplies on or near the first day of school, so this year wasn't going to be much different (I thought). Until, Emilia informed us that since they (the two oldest) were going to attend a school this year, they should have some new (or at least new to them - we like "thrifting") clothes. Thinking this seemed like a reasonable request, I proposed this idea to my frugal husband who's response was,
"Do they need new clothes?"
I hadn't checked yet. I was just thinking of getting them each one outfit or even just a shirt. I was basically asking him if we had a line in our budget for such extravagances (I obviously didn't think it was an extravagant request). His answer was clear and to the point.
"If they don't need clothes, they can earn the money to buy what they want." (We often talk to the kids about needs verses wants.)
Nate likes to wax sentimental about his early days growing up in a matchbox house without a basement where he slept in a porch-turned-bedroom (that had no heat) in the frigid Michigan winters. He tells stories to our kids that always start out with the following:
"When I was a kid..." Which immediately makes the kids and I groan and laugh at the same time, but we do listen, whether from respect or just plain old curiosity.
He often shares about how he only had one black and white television. And he had to get up to turn the channels. With pliers.
Then we hear about how his family's cars and house didn't have air conditioning.
And he likes to remind the kids, when they're complaining about not being able to play on the Wii, that his family didn't have a microwave, let alone a VHS player or Nintendo. Some of their cars didn't have a radio. Tape players were for the rich.
He goes on and on telling our kids how easy they have it compared to how he grew up. They groan intermittently and I usually add in how he even had to walk up hill, in the snow, for 7 miles to go to school. With no shoes. He tells them that's not true. He had shoes. ;)
"Our life now," he pauses, "Is so different from how I grew up. You guys have it good."
"Our life now," I say, "Isn't that much different from how I grew up, except that I used to have central air (not window air conditioners). And a pool."
We all laugh at the differences, but it makes us think (well, us adults at least). Nate and I ponder and pray about how we can raise grateful, hard working, God-fearing individuals when all their needs and most (if not all) of their wants are met on a day-to-day basis. The kids and I can be heard lightheartedly reminding each other (if there is complaining) as we go about whatever (unpaid, regular) chore we're doing at the time, to work (and work well) as we quote the verse, "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat." 2 Thessalonians 3:10b. We understand and believe that humans were created by the Lord to work and are most content and satisfied when they are working as unto the Lord.
So, we decided "if you want it and don't need it, then you have to work for it" was a good motto, even for kids 8 and under.
Conveniently, we had A LOT of yard work to do last Saturday, so it was the perfect time to have the boys work with us (Emilia was away at my parents' house).
And work they did.
Nate offered them $20 if they worked all day long with us (from about 9-5 with breaks here and there for running to the store, eating, etc.).
Tommy (2 years old) held a shovel and stayed (mostly) by our sides while the rest of us worked as well. He enjoyed "laboring" next to us. :)
Matthew (4 years old) made it 2 hours and was able to earn $4. Not so bad!
Jonny (6 years old) made it the whole day.
Not kidding. The kid was a machine.
I barely heard him complain. He was pretty motivated to earn that $20 because there was something he REALLY wanted to buy with his money...
Not just any socks, mind you. These were special socks with different animal feet pictured on the top of each sock.
What more could anyone want for going back to school?!
So, he worked and worked and worked some more. He even kept working when I got out the kiddie pool for the little boys. He did duck his head under and run through the water numerous times throughout the humid 92 degree day, but he kept working with us until 5pm painfully came around.
He even worked a little longer because at one point, about half way through the day, I said to him, "Okay, keep on shoveling," to which he responded, "You have to work too." (I was working, by the way. Stinky and sweaty. I may have been drinking water at that moment or taking a picture...)
Nate heard Jonny's remark and calmly (but firmly) said, "Jon, $1 has been deducted from your pay. You don't ever speak to your boss like that."
So, in order to get the whole $20 bill, he asked if he could work longer. Of course. I think he worked another half hour-ish (or less) past 5pm and we let him have it.
He done good.
On Sunday, both boys tithed 10% of their earnings to the Lord, proclaiming that He is ultimately the giver of all good things.
Today, I took the kids to Costco where the beloved socks reside, and both boys used their money (Matthew used the $4 he earned on Saturday plus $3 that he already had) to buy a package of 8 animal feet socks. They immediately tried many of them on when we got home and pretended to be that particular animal. Matthew even shared his new socks with a little brother who was excited to join in the animal feet fun.
Emilia, wanting a chance to earn money as well, worked around the house for me today doing laundry, dishes, dusting, picking up (basically whatever I told her to do), and was able to earn $7.50 (I paid her $3 an hour).
She liked the girly socks that Costco had, but after noting the price, she put them back. She wants to save her money and earn some more to buy something she really wants.
All in all, I think my husband is pretty terrific and smart. I can't tell you how impressed I am with the work ethic I saw displayed in our children. I underestimate them many times.
Will we always do this? I'm sure this will be quite common in our household, but we'll always evaluate each situation/child individually.
Tonight, I'm thankful for the wonderful educational value of some hard work, sweat, and...