Nate Earns a Dollar: Part I

It all started one Saturday morning a few weeks ago when we had taken a family outing to Target. I can’t remember why at the moment – probably to shop for a child’s birthday gift or something. When Nate and Sam are with me, I try to avoid Target at all costs – the toy section is too powerful, like a giant magnet with claws that reach out to pull in children and their parents, only to let go once your pre-tax total is at least fifty dollars. But perhaps Tighe and I felt emboldened this particular morning by having the other as back-up. Is there a force stronger than a married couple? Answer: yes, there is. It’s the force of brothers. Don’t ever mess with brothers. Feel free to quote me on that.


Anyway, we were there for way too long – as usual – and after a bit of time, I realized that they had divided us. They had somehow managed to isolate Tighe from me. Well done, Nate and Sam. Good move. For when it comes to spending money, I am definitely the parent with more restraint and a greater resolve to say “no.”


So, I wandered the aisles for a few more minutes, browsing for merchandise that we didn’t need, but I was worried about Tighe. He was outnumbered somewhere in the store, probably alone and scared, trying to out-logic Nate, which is just impossible. The best, most obvious facts in the world can’t ever convince that stubborn little brain.


I sent Tighe a quick text: “Where are you guys?”


I only send texts with proper grammar – even when I’m rushing.


Within seconds, I got a reply: “We’re in the car. Take your time.”


I strolled through the parking lot and arrived at the car, finding exactly what I expected to find: both boys strapped into their car seats, Nate red-faced and sobbing and Sam requesting a snack.


Tighe must have already recovered from the initial shock and embarrassment of a public tantrum because he was seated in the driver’s seat, one hand on the wheel, the other on his chin as he turned back to make a deal with Nate. “Nate, you can earn the money to buy that Raphael. We’ll pay you money if you do some jobs around the house.”


Apparently, once they successfully separated Tighe and me, Nate and Sam cornered him in the TMNT section, where Nate, sensing Tighe’s weakness, discovered a Raphael toy that he had to have. Tighe, God love him, refused to make the purchase and the tears commenced.


Once he composed himself a bit more, he was able to tell me more details about the awesomeness of this particular eleven-inch toy. Apparently, his turtle head ducks into his turtle shell and he has his own set of sais. Wow. Awesome.


So, we made a deal with Nate: he could do chores around the house to earn money and then we could order the Raphael online. It became the longest three weeks ever.


He needed fourteen dollars and already had seven in his bank at home, so he was already half way there. And thank God.


Cleaning up his own messes: no money earned. He’s supposed to be doing that anyway. But cleaning up messes that Sam made: $1. Helping unload the groceries: $1. Dusting: $1. Leaving me alone for one whole hour: $1. And no, that last one never happened.


And he was thrilled with each dollar he earned. He ran upstairs to his room where he put it high on his bookshelf, out of Sam’s reach. We all know how quickly Sam can destroy a dream. [Cue memories of spilled coffee…wiping tears from my eyes…]


Then came the sunny Sunday afternoon when Tighe asked him to wash the car after church. It’s a Suburban. Nate’s three. It’s like asking Tom Thumb to deliver mail to all of Mexico City. Or asking Rick Moranis’s kids to cross the backyard. So we offered him $4 for this monumental task.


He put on his bathing suit, filled some buckets with soapy water and grabbed some rags from inside the house. We helped him get set up and turned on the hose for him. About halfway through, he wiped out on the wet, slippery garage floor. Minimal blood, but lots of tears, and the trauma was probably exacerbated by the fact that he hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Low blood sugar.


Once he composed himself, he asked Tighe to finish the job for him. Tighe refused. “You don’t earn your money if you don’t finish the job!”


So, Nate negotiated: “Dad, I’ll pay you two dollars if you finish washing the car.” Deal.


Once Tighe made sure the car shiny and sparkling, they came inside for lunch and for compensation. Tighe, now soaking wet and a little sweaty, paid $4 to Nate, and Nate handed $2 back to Tighe. Being the primary driver of that car, I had assumed the interior was also included in the contract, but serves me right for not reading the fine print.


A few more odd jobs here and there – and no, dumping out all the Lego’s so that he can then clean them up doesn’t count, though he did try that – and he had $13. Only one more dollar.


Tune in next week to find out whether or not he does in fact earn that dollar! And really, tune in later this week because I’ve already written Part 2, and I get antsy.