The other night as I was sitting at my desk finishing up some freelance stuff my son came to me with a sheet of paper and a huge but purposeful smile. It was the smile of accomplishment. He announced that he had reached a deal with Daddy about his allowance and wanted to show me his proposal so I could sign off on it, too.
I looked it over and was pretty impressed. He had a well organized and well thought out proposal, presented in columns with proposed chores and proposed compensation for each. At the bottom was an additional listing of compensation amounts, each with it’s explanation and calculation. I was proud, very proud. It was a big deal for an 8 year old to come up with such a clear and concise document, especially considering he’s half me, and therefore one might expect his expressions would be overly worded and convoluted.
Then I looked a little closer, and did the math. I laughed and smiled and he just stood there and started to giggle. I gather Daddy didn’t do the math. I nodded as a manager would and then asked him for confirmation that these numbers were the weekly numbers. No, he responded, that’s per day. We went over each one and then I had him explain the bottom portion.
“Oh, that’s the tip” he said.
“Tip?” I asked quizzically, slightly squinting my eyes and looking at him with a smile still. “You get a tip?”
“Oh yes, for every day that I do all the chores listed, I get a $5 tip.” He explained.
“Look here, that is the WEEKLY tip.” He said as if explaining his balance sheet to a 2 year old. “If I do all the chores every day of the week, I get an additional $10 tip for the week.”
“I see,” I said. “So lets look at the chores then.” I started looking at each line item. Make the Bed, ok, get the mail, ok, feed the birds, ok. “Can you explain this one to me?” I asked, pointing to the 4th line on the sheet.
“Oh, eating.” He said. He leaned back and started to casually explain the next several items on the list. “See, I know we’ve had some trouble with me eating, so if I eat well each day, I get $6.” I raised my eyebrows a bit and then looked back at the sheet.
“And this one?” I asked, “Why is there a line through Shower?”
“Oh,” he answered, “Daddy and I cost share on that one.” Cost share? How does an 8 year old know about cost sharing? I barely know about cost sharing. “If I take a shower I get $4, but if Daddy doesn’t take one on that same day, I get $8 because I get his $4.”
“Wait, I have to pay Daddy to take a shower?” I asked, totally confused now.
“No, Daddy doesn’t get an allowance.” He said laughing, “Daddy HAS the money.” I raised my eyebrows and looked up at my little man standing there, and reminded him that daddy doesn’t work, to which he responded in a voice much older than it should be, “Yes he does, his job is to go to school.” Ok, we weren’t going to have that conversation and get to the bottom of where the money was coming from. Instead I just focused on the tally sheet.
“So, did Daddy add this up before he approved it?” I asked?
“He said it was fine and to check with you.”
“And did YOU add it up?” I asked.
“Well …..” he started to stammer and shifted a bit on his feet.
“$255 a week? Are you kidding me?” I asked after adding it up. I laughed along with him.
“Whaaaaa …” he said. “It’s a fair number for the chores.”
“Honey, first off, yes, this is very well done, but seriously, let me understand this. I have to pay for your food and then pay you to eat it? And pay you to bathe and drink fluids? Don’t you think that’s a little crazy? And then the tips? I’m not sure I’m on board with the tips.” I said.
“Ohhhh, that’s ok, you don’t have to worry about the tips,” he answered, “it’s not like I’m going to be doing all the chores every day.”
I laughed and said that we had to work on his interview skills. I wrote the daily and weekly totals and sent him back to his father to rework the numbers.
As I was sitting waiting for the second proposal I thought about this situation. He’s certainly organized and well thought out, so that made me proud. And he got it past his father, because of the way it was presented. The numbers weren’t outrageous, but of course just like the American Express bill, they add up in the end, so that was pretty impressive. The idea of the tip was ingenious, but the paying him to eat was a little over the top.
As I thought about it more I was hopeful. Neither his father or I ever got that skill or talent to deal with money, and well, my negotiating abilities for job requirements hasn’t been stellar, either, which is how I always end up surprised as more and more gets loaded on without any real upfront disclosure of the requirements, or adherence to those requirements even when they are partially disclosed, so maybe he’s got something. He’s certainly setting expectations low so the disappointment level isn’t there. In fact, if he actually DOES do the chores, there’s only compensation and a sense of accomplishment. So maybe we should listen to him!
He came back with the second proposal. He had reduced the tips. Nice try, but I explained to him that there is no way I can pull another $200 a week out of my butt so he was pretty much out of luck, but I assured him I was very impressed with his dedication and organization in putting this together. We would need to negotiate the rates a bit and then clear off some of the requirements, or at least the compensated requirements. We agreed to all review it over the weekend.
Later that night as he was going to bed he got up and ran out of the room. I asked where he was going and he said he had to go to the bathroom. As he trailed off down the hall I couldn’t help myself but ask ….
[witten by Laurissa Doonan 10/27/08]
“How much is that going to cost me?”