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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Friday, June 19, 2009

The $613 Vacation- Getting To Yes

Perhaps clarification is in order. When I say we are not headed to the nearest theme park, I mean just that, no theme park, Dante-themed or otherwise.

We fully intend to spend the money we budgeted for the theme park. We just don't intend to spend it at the theme park.

It took a family meeting that bordered on sales pitch for some of the snazzier clients I have had, and a better Dog 'n Pony Show, to eliminate Three Circles Over Hades.

The kids love the Internet. It is something we only let them use once or twice a week, or to work on school projects, with a fully running net nanny. I loaded a doc which featured linked logos and photographs in text boxes (easily moved about the page). The links included URLs for local tourist places, movies, sports events not involving baseball, and museums.

I then got out a dry marker and the white board. "Kids, how much does it cost to go to Three Circles Over Hades?" I inquired.

The eldest thought of an answer. "Nothing. We get our tickets free at school." Aha! Just the answer I wanted. They were amazed that yes indeed, the old folks needed money to enter Hades, and then there was all that money for other things. I tallied it all up right there. It was an astounding $507.

The eldest was now spokesperson. "But what about our money for chores, and our behavior bucks?"

We don't give this set of kids an allowance, in the sense that they receive a set amount of family cash simply for existence. They have a chore chart. Some things, such as bed making and washing oneself out of the bathtub, are gratis. Other chores, from folding laundry to taking out garbage, come with a price tag. No workie, no money, and it better be done with a civil attitude or no money anyway, but the Mister and I still get the work done. 10 percent of this income is given to charity, 50 percent is saved in a savings account, and the rest the child can use to his or her choice.

The second source of child income in our household is behavior bucks. Call it Negative Motivation. Call it Incentive Behavior. The Mister and I are over 50. We don't want to mess with physical restrictions, corporal punishments, and all the parenting angles younger people seem to have energy to perform, unless it is absolutely necessary; very often, it is not.

The premise is simple. Every month, we do something together as a family. An amount of money is set aside in the family budget every month. How the children behave determines what happens when it is time for the monthly family activity on which said money is spent. Some months, the family activity can be as rich as the movies with popcorn and restaurant lunch. There are also months where the family activity is Pay Per View rated G, or even just board games.

The kids used to have mason jars, which into each was deposited toy money bearing the value of the set amount per child. Tell a lie to get out of work? One behavior buck lost, and a talk on lies. Most childish misbehaviors lose a buck. Fighting of any form within the friendly confines of the house earns the loss of a whopping 2 behavior bucks, and going to one's room for the rest of the day. Needless to say, the rooms are no entertainment centers, and lack TVs, computers, Wii and even books barring the Bible and prayer books.

However, the behavior bucks were not portable, and sometimes the old gal forgot. The "bucks" are now values on a punch ticket. It is extremely pleasurable to grunt in public, "I'm gonna punch your ticket" and have younger parents look aghast, only for me to whip out the hole puncher and the tickets.

Taking into account behavior bucks earned for April through August meant we raised the stakes to $613 (we really did plan to go to Hades, and it was the children's idea to save the behavior bucks).

While I sold all the wonderful places we could go, I could see the girl child's eyes light. I know she is the one who hates Three Circles Over Hades the most. She is very bright, and was calculating in her head just how much $613 could buy of a summer.

It was the eldest who was yet unsold. "But I worked hard to earn that pass!" Did you really, Pet? A quick tally of the old dry marker showed that indeed, the eldest was also involved with earning a good grade in Reading, a coupon for an individual pan pizza, and a ticket to the minor league ball park, all at the same time, by reading 30 minutes an evening. Hardly the effort imagined.

It was at that point I urged them to the computers. They clicked the links of their choices, and were transported to some 12, count 'em, twelve places and activities within the greater Chicago metropolitan area. They were all in.

I have yet to figure out what we will do with the Hades passes. They are allegedly nontransferable, and the kids' names are on the back. Perhaps I'll stick them in their baby books (advantage of being Grandma AND Mom- You latch onto the baby books early). As long as we adults do not have to swelter in Hades, I will be satisfied.

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