What price an apology? That’s not a rhetorical question, they’re currently trading at 10p.
You see, I’ve introduced the boys to pocket-money. In part to teach them the value of money, but mostly because I’m a fool.
It all began in Sainsbury’s. Tired and distracted, I took a wrong turn and found myself in a cul-de-sac of toys, my escape blocked by a double-buggy. Sonny spotted a Spiderman action figure he just had to have. Luca concurred. I panicked.
“You can earn it by doing chores”, I suggested, in hope more than expectation.
They thought long and hard.
Just like that.
Stand-off averted we made it to the checkout with nothing more than we’d come in for.
I even allowed myself a sympathetic, if a tad patronising, smile to the mum whose child was mid-tantrum. Well, it’s a tricky business this parenting malarkey … if you don’t know what you’re doing!
Sonny helped pack my smugness in a carrier bag. Luca offered to carry it home. It felt good.
Two weeks on and the boys have their action figure, earned through blood, sweat and tears. All of them mine.
Because unbeknownst to me,what I’d actually done was spawn a capitalist monster.
You see, everything now has a price. And I mean EVERYTHING!
It began when they got out of the bath that night.
Sonny: “I’ll dry my own feet. Shall we say 5p a toe? 10p for the big one, yeah?”
Luca: “I’ll read the bedtime story for 10p! S…e…c…r…e…t, secret. s…e…v…e…n …. ”
One sentence/hour later …
“Psst, Luca. Kick your covers off! … DADDY! I’m going to tuck Luca back in. You can pay me in the morning!”
And then, come the morning,
Luca: “I only got up in the night two times, that must be worth something?”
Sonny: “I’m going upstairs to brush my teeth without whingeing, you can get your wallet out while you’re waiting”
I was facing bankruptcy. We needed to discuss what constituted a chore, and for that we looked to the dictionary.
A routine task, especially a household one.
A tedious but necessary task.
We decided to write a list …
Sonny: “How much do I get for an apology?”
Sonny: “But apologising is routine AND tedious. Fine then, I’ll put down 10p, but only if I mean it”
Luca: “What does he get if I don’t accept it?”
When your dining room becomes the trading floor of a sorry stock exchange it’s time to admit defeat. I didn’t. Instead I narrowed it down to household chores only.
Now, whoever said many hands make light work clearly didn’t have an extra four limbs in a sink of dishes.
They’d never tasted a cup of coffee made by a four-year old.
They’d never seen a five-year old spill a bowl of blueberries, then pause while he negotiated a price per blueberry to pick them back up.
They quite obviously didn’t have children!
So when I say they earned their action figure, they did, but I’m ashamed to admit that in the end I paid them not to help.
Because when you’ve spent a week tiptoeing round the kitchen doing dishes by stealth, under the guise of going for a poo.
When you’re cleaning up their spilt dinner by hand because the sound of the hoover has become synonymous with that of a free cash machine.
When you’re hanging out the washing at midnight under the cover of darkness.
You soon realise life is too short. That there’s no place for capitalism in a house of the under 6’s. And in hindsight, £12.99 for a Spiderman action figure was in fact an absolute bloody bargain.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I can hear an argument brewing and I can’t afford another apology payout today, especially if it’s a sincere one. Worse still, I think Luca might just be in the mood to accept it, too.