Nate Earns a Dollar: Part 2

When last we left our hero, he had accumulated $13 and was preparing to earn his final dollar so that he could buy his coveted Raphael doll (“Action figure!” – Tighe).


It doesn’t sound like much, but yet that little bank account balance stood still at $13 for over a week.


Until one morning when he demanded that he wear his “bright green all four turtles shirt.” The same shirt he had worn the day before. The same shirt that was sitting dirty in his laundry basket. Because, like most boys, when Nate wears a shirt, Nate WEARS a shirt. As in: ate a chocolate chip granola bar from Trader Joe’s in it, had a dirt fight with some cousins in it, and got all sweaty and gross in it. You know, by being Nate in it.


So, while arguing with him and trying to wrestle the grimy shirt out of his hands, I saw opportunity. “Why don’t you do a load of laundry? That way, you can wear your shirt and earn that last dollar!”


And since he had spent a lot of time the last seven days moping around and passive-aggressively mentioning how much better his life would be if he had that Raphael with the head in the shell, he agreed with enthusiasm. It was like telling a prisoner with a life sentence that he could get out on good behavior – still would require some work, but totally worth it.


We keep four dirty laundry baskets in our house: one in Nate’s room, one in Sam’s room, and two in our room – one for whites and one for colors. I previously had a joke on race relations here, but my in-house legal counsel (husband with an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a masters in BS) advised me to remove it.


Anyway, back to laundry – much more captivating, I know – the laundry room is on the first floor. I suggested that he collect the dirty clothes from each basket – and there wasn’t much, I had done three loads the day before – and carry it all down the steps in only one basket. But since my logic is always ignored or doesn’t seem to make sense to Nate, he made four individual trips up and down the stairs with a minimally filled laundry basket each time. He took a lot longer than I would have, especially since he had to pause for a snack break after the third trip, but I have to admit I’m jealous of the calories he burned.


Then he had to – and for some reason, this was the tougher part – take the clothes from the laundry baskets and put them into the washer. And he did this one item at a time. And commented on each piece as he did so.


“Hey, this is my dad’s underwear! It’s red! He probably bought it because red is my favorite color.” Yeah, probably.


“Mom, why do you wear a bra?” Good question.


Meanwhile, Sam, who gets immense joy out of rifling through the kitchen trash and putting sticks in his nose, stood close by and watched with mild curiosity. “All this for a toy?” his facial expressions seemed to say.


So, after about an hour of agonizing (for me) hard labor, I put in the laundry detergent and showed him which buttons to push. He peered into the washer as it filled with sudsy water and the clothes began their swaying, cleansing motion. Then, triumphantly, he stuck out his chest, marched into the family room, and said, “Wellllll, I do laundry now, Sam,” as if he had finally graduated into manhood. “Where’s my dollar?”


Oh, no. I explained to him that he wasn’t finished: he had to wait for the wash cycle to complete, still had to put it all into the dryer, and perhaps most importantly, sort and fold it all. At the rate he was going, he’d have his dollar just in time for the Jewish High Holidays a few weeks later. Typically, we don’t observe these holidays, but this year, we might need to. #atonement


I’ll fast-forward through the rest of this tedious task: fifty-two minutes later, I reminded him that he was still in the process of earning a dollar and needed to transfer the clean, wet clothes from washer to dryer, throw in a dryer sheet, and press “Start.” Then forty-two minutes after that, when I asked him to remove the dry clothes and put them into the laundry basket. I had already decided that I’d fold them. I don’t really want his grubby little fingers on my underwear, and I like my sons to have a nice crease down the center of their otherwise slovenly t-shirts. With each task, it was like I had asked him to summit Mount Everest in his underwear with no oxygen, food, water, or toys.


Eventually, though – against all odds – the laundry got finished and Nate earned his dollar. I have never been so happy, and so relieved, to part with money. We celebrated that afternoon by “ordering” Raphael from, and since I wouldn’t spring for overnight shipping, we had to endure three whole mornings of asking whether today was the day his toy would arrive. First world problems…


Find out what happens to Raphael in the third and final installment of this thrilling page-turner to be published in just a few days. Spoiler alert: we all have a bit of hardship to survive.