This month’s Blogging 4 Books topic: the military. Join in. Post a blog. Maybe win a book!

I’ve always considered myself to be a nice, sociable person. I’m a team player. I cheer for the underdog. Heck, in one of my previous B4B attempts, I waxed poetic about how I collect strays (people). Imagine my surprise when, during an office team building exercise, my personality profile came back labeled: Field Marshall.

Field. Marshall. Me. Mr. Clean laughed and said, “They found you out, huh?” Okay. So maybe I’m a little on the blunt side and sometimes my tact disappears like car keys when you’re late for an appointment. And, yeah, all right. I might have a teensy tiny issue with wanting things done Now. Now. Now. But, Seriously?

Mr. Clean reminded me about my perfectionist “thing” and my high expectations of the people around me. And then I dragged him out back for execution.

Alas, he escaped and ran halfway around the world – leaving me, now affectionately referred to as Little Hitler, with a pre-teen terror suffering mightily from male PMS and his eight year old counterpart. Oh, and an immeasurable amount of laundry and dishes – not normally my household responsibility.

As you know from previous posts, I spent the first week of his absence wheedling and cajoling, and then bribing my spawnlings for assistance. To no avail. The second week, I put my foot down and went on strike. (Or maybe I just hid beneath my duvet, hoping it would all miraculously disappear if I wished hard enough.)

When that didn’t work, I sucked it up and embraced my inner Field Marshall. Out came the white board and a handful of dry erase markers. Rules were set. The Chore Menu was re-posted.* I called my little battalion to attention and issued their orders.

Rule #1: If you eat off of it, you rinse it and put it in the dishwasher.
Consequence: You’ll eat off of it again, dirty. Just imagine chicken gravy on top of day old spaghetti sauce. Yum.

Rule #2: Laundry day is Wednesday and Thursday. You will separate your own clothes, turning them all right side out. You will remove all the crap from your pockets. You will help fold your clothes once they’re dry.
Consequence: You go to school naked and people will laugh at you. I. Am. Not. Joking.

Rule #3: Rooms will be inspected, nightly, for cleanliness.
Consequence: Every failed inspection will equal the loss of one power cord until inspection is passed.

Rule #4: Homework will be completed directly after school and then be presented for checking.
Consequence: You lose 1 hour of TV each time I have to ask if your homework is done. (this one was particularly painful as they only get roughly 1 hour of TV time a day. Once they realized this included the viewing of Netflix movies… Heh.)

Rule #5: You will act with respect and courtesy.
Consequence: Money from your wallet will be deposited into mine every time you act otherwise. If you act badly towards your brother, you will have to hug each other for 5 full minutes per transgression in addition to the loss of money.

I have to admit, the first few days were the quietest I’ve ever heard. It was like having a power outage, the silence was so deafening. Of course, I was forced to go barefoot as my sock drawer overflowed with every Playstation, Game Cube, stereo, and computer cord in the house – along with a Leapster and an iPod. But! I got to watch uninterrupted evening television. In total silence. It was like winning the lottery (except for all the dirty dishes in the sink and the naked spawnlings whining about their heinies being cold).

Once it became clear I meant serious business, my spawnlings passed boot camp and emerged from their rooms like good little soldiers ready to fight the household battle.

I began to surreptitiously slide in remarks like, “Hmmm. Since you’re already taking that clean glass from the dishwasher, I’m surprised you wouldn’t just unload it all and earn money.” I’d then follow it with a dramatic shrug and mutter self-reminders under my breath – like how I needed to go to the mall for a few things.

It eventually became somewhat of a competition to see who could do more. They scrambled over each other, like contestants on Survivor, to empty the dishwasher. I even had to break up a fight over the vacuum cleaner (for which I became $2 richer in the process – see Rule #5). – I must digress for a moment to mention: The only thing better than watching an eight year old wield a vacuum hose like a sword to attack his sometimes bullying older brother is watching the two of them try not to burst out laughing while having to hug each other for five minutes. Just saying.

Once they started doing things I hadn’t asked (scrubbing toilets and bathtubs!), they quickly realized that Field Marshall Mom turned into Best Buy Mom & Dining Out Mom. So, my house stayed nearly spotless. I hardly had to touch a dish, except for my own. Shaggy went so far as to insist it was time for him to learn how to do his own laundry. I wrung my hands over that first load full of Abercrombie shirts but he mastered it. Doodlebug, not wanting to be left out, insisted on loading the washer himself while I supervised and dished out detergent. Homework got completed in record time. And it was done Neatly.

Mr. Clean came back home, viewed the results, and then insisted I must have administered daily beatings, at the least. After giving him 40 push-ups, I let him in on the secret to it all: A solid plan of attack, a mastering of the Evil Eye, allowing No excuses, and the ability to tune out copious whining during the first week. Add to that, lots of “I’m so proud of you” and “You’re so helpful” remarks, plus an enormous amount of hugs. Having a lot of $1 bills on hand doesn’t hurt either.

So let me just say – If having time to relax with a cup of coffee while my spawnlings take responsibility for their own messes means that I’m a Field Marshall… HOO-RAH!!

* Just in case you were curious: A Chore Menu is a secret weapon for every household with kids. Ours looks like this:

Emptying Dishwasher: $1.00
Cleaning Kitchen - $3.00
Mopping Kitchen - $2.00
Mopping Living Room/Hallway - $3.00
Clean Bathroom - $2.50 each
Dusting - $5.00 for entire house
Vacuuming - $1.00 per room
Feed/Water/Hay Horses - $1.50
Cleaning Horse Paddock - $5.00
Mowing: $30.00
Weed-Eating: $10.00
Cleaning Pool: $5.00

All of these chores are optional. We don’t dole out allowances. If they want money, it’s there for the earning. The amounts are set for a job well done. If it’s only half done, only half pay is received. All of the chores are things Mr. Clean and I would normally have to do anyhow so if they don’t get done it’s no big loss to us. If they do get done – Woo Hoo!! Happy Campers all around.

Warning: The first month of this will enact a monetary free-for-all and will put you in the poor house. I’d suggest having funds ready to go on the side before posting. We pay twice a month, on pay day, so I keep an account book for each spawnling with entries made only after a job is completed/inspected. 25% of their pay goes straight to Savings (unless they opt for more). It works wonderfully and, hopefully, I’m giving them a healthy work ethic as well as a sense of financial responsibility.

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6 Responses
  1. Dancinfairy Says:

    I love this post. I so will remember all of these plans of attack for when I have kids of my own. I love the power cord idea.

    Do you think it will work on the boyfriend?

  2. Andreia Says:

    Good job, Momma!

    You got your fine young men to join the ranks of the few and the proud; those that do their own laundry! And no one went AWOL?!

    I am plotting my own insurgency into my children's world of laziness. I sneak into my bedroom at night and plot with chore charts and the like. I particularly enjoy crafting the "consequences" (evil grin) Thanks for the ideas!

  3. Dejah Says:

    Does this REALLY work?

    I like your rules. I am going to start trying out the dirty dishes one. This is probably the biggest problem I have for my kids.

  4. el-e-e Says:

    I am SO printing this out.

  5. dragonfly Says:

    Dej - Yeah, it really works. Granted, there were moments after Mr. Clean returned where things became a little lax but that's due to years of him assuming all of the household jobs. It's calming (??!!) to him. I don't get it, but O-kay. Whatever makes him happy. Since then, it's evolved nicely and Mr. Clean is enjoying a little extra free time to read all the books I shove his way (at gunpoint, don't you know).

  6. Anonymous Says:

    And having witnessed firsthand the recruits Frau Dragonfly had to train, I am exceedingly proud of their accomplishments. And hers. Der Prinz ist shon glonklish mit dem! Shon zeit, auch!