Show Me The Money

Luke...preparing to be a trillionaire.

This morning I was rushing to get the kids ready for school. Still under the weather from the effects of some alien germ brought home by my children and trying to get out early because of the snow piling up outside, I was in no mood for interruptions as I barreled through my usual routine. I was in the process of making lunches when Luke surprised me.

“Mom, isn’t today clean the toilet day?”

Shocking, right? I was amazed both that he knew it was Wednesday and that he realized that meant he needed to clean the downstairs bathroom. He’s 8. So proud.

A couple weeks ago I proposed something new to my boys. They were already earning $5 a week allowance for doing the basics (clearing their plates, putting their clothes in the hamper, cleaning up their toys, and taking out the trash and recycling). But they were looking for a raise, and I wasn’t about to give them more money to do so little. Instead, I offered them each an extra $5 a week if they were willing to clean one bathroom a piece on both Wednesdays and Saturdays. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that although I can’t afford to pay a cleaning service, I can certainly cough up $10 a week for the opportunity NOT to have to clean two out of the three bathrooms in our home. My children could be my tiny maids!

“So, is it my day to clean the bathroom?” Luke pressed.

“Today is Wednesday, so yes.”

“YES!” came his enthusiastic reply, which was accompanied by an actual fist pump. Was this kid for real?

He ran off to the bathroom and returned with the toilet bowl cleaner, which he needed me to open because it’s childproofed. (By the way, we should be putting toilet bowl cleaner in Cars and Princess Barbie wrappers to entice kids into thinking cleaning the bathroom is fun. Come on. We’re missing out on child labor, and companies are missing out on an entire market of avid consumers.) Anyway, a minute later he was scrubbing the inside of the toilet. Then he pulled out the Clorox wipes and cleaned the inside of the sink and wiped off the toilet seat. After that I noticed he was wiping off the granite counter with a wet paper towel. And, then for the pièce de résistance, he got up onto the counter to clean the two bathroom mirrors. I haven’t been this proud since he first learned to use the toilet!

He then emerged and reminded me that after he cleans the bathroom on Saturday he’ll be needing his $10 allowance. Ahhh…there we have it. The motivation. Here I thought he was merely being a very responsible, helpful little boy. Nope. Like a pirate, it’s the money he was after. I should have known that. When he was 5 and saw The Empire Strikes Back for the first time, I asked him which character he liked best. His response? “Han Solo because he’s just in it for the money.” Luke is the only kid I know who, when asked, will happily tell you that when he grows up what he would like to be the first trillionaire. At 6, he told us “I’m ready to grow up. I want to get a wife, have some kids, and just get on with my life.” He is a boy with ideas and ambition, and I know he will be wildly successful someday.

Some people might find it offensive that Luke is financially motivated. Some might deem it shallow and assume we’re sending him the wrong messages. Truth is that he’s always been this way. He’s great at math and he likes money. There are worse directions he could be headed. And, you know what? A clean bathroom is a clean bathroom, and it doesn’t matter what motivation caused it to become so. Someday Luke is going to make a top-notch husband because he’s a hard worker who isn’t afraid to get dirty to make his dreams come true and he cleans bathrooms. There’s nothing wrong with that.


  1. You should be proud! My three kids of different ages were helping me out when I was working 2 part time jobs. I had a list of duties on the fridge with different amounts for each. By the end of the week when their initials were tallied it worked out that my oldest made the most, middle child made some and the youngest (who wanted to do less and had less need for cash) made the least. Needless to say I got my house cleaned for about $15 a week and they still help out on their own now.

    1. Christi…I love your idea of the chart and letting them choose. I have a feeling that Luke would do the lion’s share of the work and Joe would do just enough to have some spending cash occasionally. 😉

  2. This made me think of Lunch Money, one of Andrew Clements’ great books. If you and your Luke haven’t read it, you should.

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