Keeping Count

Chores for money would teach the kids a good lesson – but they weren’t the only ones to learn a thing or two!

Six-year-old Erin and eight-year-old Jack sidled up to their mother.

“Me and Erin have been talking,” said Jack. “And we think we should get pocket money.”

“Oh?” Lauren put her magazine down to listen.

“Everyone in the world gets pocket money except us,” said Erin earnestly.

“In the whole world?” asked Lauren, straight-faced.

“Uh-huh. And it’s not fair.”

“What she means is having our own money will teach us how to budget and save,” said Jack. He nudged his sister. “Isn’t that right Erin?”

“Yes.” Erin nodded vigorously. “And how to… how to manage our fences,” she finished triumphantly.

“Finances,” hissed Jack.

“Hmm,” said Lauren, struggling not to smile.

“Learning to manage your finances is a worthy goal. What do you think, Nate?” she asked her husband.

He had already turned the TV down.

“I think it’s an excellent idea. How much pocket money were you thinking?”

Jack named a figure and both parents laughed. Nate was a postman and his shifts nicely complemented Lauren’s evening shifts in the supermarket. While money wasn’t exactly tight, there wasn’t much left over at the end of the month.

“Not a chance,” said Nate. “If I had that kind of disposable income I’d need financial planning too.”

“This is serious,” said Erin. “We’re poor.”

“That we are,” said Lauren. “OK, how about this. You get a small amount of pocket money each week, but you have to earn any extra.”

“How much?” asked Jack.

She told them, adding, “And you’ll get more for doing chores.”

The children looked at each other, considering.

“Chores like on TV?” asked Jack. “Feeding chickens and cleaning out the barn?”

“Well as we don’t have any chickens, or a barn we’ll have to have a think,” said Nate, trying – and failing – to keep a straight face.

“What about loading and unloading the dishwasher,” suggested Lauren, which was a job she hated. “Or putting the laundry away.”

“We could do those things easy peasy,” said Jack, growing excited. “How much will we get for that?”

Lauren named a figure then watched his mind working. He broke out in a wide grin, bless him. Arithmetic had never been his strong point.

The pair left to count their anticipated newfound wealth.

“I’m liking this idea already, said Nate rubbing his hands together. “I’ll get them to wash the car.”

Lauren shook her head.

“They’re not tall enough or old enough for that. The car would only be half clean at best. Maybe they can help you wash it. But they have to see it through to the end and not just have a water fight while you do all the work.”

Nate sighed. “That means I still have to be involved. Which hardly seems fair when you’ll get them doing your work.”

“My work?” Lauren’s eyebrows shot up to a dangerous height. Nate swiftly back pedalled.

“I just mean it’s usually you who empties the dishwasher and puts the laundry away. I wasn’t suggesting that it has to be you. Darling. Sweetheart. Shall we draw up a list of suitable tasks and see how long it takes them to lose interest?”

The grandparents were on board with the idea of chores too. Except their version of a fair wage for the job wasn’t quite the same as Lauren’s. Before long she had to have a word with her mother.

“Erin loves baking with you. She would have made those scones for free.”

“Ah but she was a great help,” said her mother.

“But five pounds is far too much to pay her,” continued Lauren. “They’ll be demanding a raise at home at this rate. And Dad getting Jack to collect slugs on the allotment at a pound each? That’s ridiculous!”

“Well he had to get the same as Erin to make it fair,” said her mother.

“No, he didn’t,” said Erin.

“The idea is to teach them the value of money.

“Inflating the pay and turning fun into a chore isn’t exactly the message we want to teach them.”

Her mother considered. “Well, what if your dad and I just give them money each week without them having to work for it?”

“But that completely defeats the whole purpose!”

When Lauren got home Jack was counting his money.

“I’m rich,” he said happily.

She smiled and ruffled his hair, knowing that for her son, wealth meant enough to buy sweets and a packet of football stickers.

“The dishwasher’s not empty,” she pointed out.

“Yeah I know but it’s a bit boring. I think I’ll pay Erin to do it,” he said and strolled out, leaving his mother speechless!

“Do you think this whole thing is getting a bit out of hand?” Lauren asked Nate later.

“Oh, I don’t know. Jack shredded all those old bank statements for me.”

“He did. And he also shredded the current one – and an insurance policy. You should have supervised.”

Nate chose to ignore that. “And Erin put all those toys away.”

“They were her toys,” said Lauren.

“Yes, but I was about to do it when she offered. I got a bargain rate, too. Now I can watch the footie in a tidy room. Personally, I’m rather liking this.”

Lauren pressed her fingers to her temples. Was she the only one who could see this wasn’t working?

The kids were getting paid for things they either should be doing anyway, or would happily do for nothing. And Nate was doing even less than ever by paying his children to work for him!

Sitting down at the table she picked up Erin’s drawing pad and a felt pen. Everyone seemed to be getting something out of this except her. Time to even things up.

She began to write…

  • Internet banking
  • Shopping, laundry, arranging dentist and optician appointments – all times four.
  • Finding and returning three overdue library books.
  • Emptying the cat litter tray.
  • Shopping for ingredients for tomorrow’s cupcake sale at the church.
  • Matching up all the odd socks…

She added a price beside each item as she went along.

“What’s this?” asked Nate reading over her shoulder.

“Neither of us are working today,” she told him. “But this is a list of everything I’ve done. What about you?”

“I’ve done loads of things!”

“Like what?”

“Erm… well I put some toys away… well, nearly.”

“Nearly doesn’t count. The thing is, everyone seems to either have much more free time than they once had, or more money. Everyone but me, that is.”

“Is this a bill?” asked Nate in disbelief as he read the list.

“Looks like it.”

“Then I’d better get on and write mine, then.”

“Please do,” she said sweetly. He picked up a pen and Lauren waited.

“I do plenty!” he insisted.

“Sure, you do love. Let me know when you’ve finished.”

She went into the kitchen and was peeling potatoes when Erin joined her a few minutes later.

“What are you doing, Mummy?”

“Making dinner.”

“Can I help?”

“I’m not going to pay you to help,” warned Lauren.

“That’s OK,” said Erin. “I don’t like money any more. It was too heavy in my pocket so I gave it all to a homeless man when I was out with Granny. Do you know homeless people don’t have a house or a bed?”

“I did know that.” Lauren looked at her daughter. “You gave away all your money?”

“Mhmm. Now he can buy a house. Or a cup of tea. Can I help you cooking? I like mixing things.”


Bemused, Lauren got a step stool for Erin to stand on. Of course, she had always known how kind-hearted her daughter was. She’d just forgotten it in all the fuss about payments.

Lauren was chopping onions and keeping an eye on Erin’s efforts when Jack wandered in.

“Mum, I forgot to give you this.” He handed Lauren a bar of her favourite chocolate.

“What’s this for?” she asked, surprised and touched.

He shrugged carelessly. “Because you buy me stuff all the time.”

He peered into the pan Erin was carefully stirring.

“Can we cook some of the carrots Grandad and I picked at the allotment? He let me dig and didn’t tell me off even once for getting muddy.

“There were all sorts of creepy crawlies. I’m going to take a box and collect some next time.

“Oh, and I’m going to use my money to buy a butterfly hotel. There’s a man at the allotment who makes them. Grandma loves butterflies but you can’t buy them, so I thought if she had a hotel in her garden they might come for a holiday and she could watch them.”

“Jack, that’s a lovely idea!” said Lauren.

The two children were now jostling for possession of Erin’s step stool, finally settling for one foot each and wrapping their arms around each other for balance, giggling madly.

Lauren’s heart swelled with love as she watched them. They really were good kids.

Nate came in a few minutes later. The paper he held was still blank.

“Erm…about that list. I’ve been thinking and maybe there is bit of a discrepancy between what you and I do in the house.”

Lauren opened her mouth to tell him what Erin and Jack had done but before she could say anything the cat flap banged and Loki, shiny and sleek streaked into the kitchen.

The little cat proudly deposited a dead mouse at Lauren’s feet, winding himself around her ankles, purring madly.

Lauren hated mice. No. Lauren was terrified of mice. Even dead ones. She stared down, too horrified to react.

Luckily everyone else knew what to do. Quick as a flash, Jack chased the cat back outside. Nate snatched up some kitchen paper, picked up the unfortunate creature and carried it out to the wheelie bin.

Erin meanwhile fetched the mop and disinfectant which she swiftly handed to her father when he returned. The whole episode was dealt with in under two minutes.

“As I was saying,” said Nate. “About that bill you wrote…”

He peered at Lauren who was still hyperventilating.

“Breathe, sweetheart,” he said soothingly. “It’s gone now.”

When the whole question of pocket money had first been raised, Erin had seen it as a chance to teach the children a valuable lesson.

Instead, it seemed she was the one who had learned a lesson: that some things in life really were priceless.

Kindness. Love. Generosity. Working together.

Her hand was still shaking as she wordlessly took the list out of Nate’s hand.

Paid in full, she wrote before engulfing her wonderful family in a hug.

Our My Weekly Favourites series of lovely short fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one. 

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