Top Ten Child Labor Lessons

In homage to Labor Day, I reviewed my use of child labor in my family’s once-a-week church cleaning chore. Here are the top ten things I’ve learned in two years of toilet swishing and vacuum pushing. 

10) Never let them off the hook.  Teenageers will use any excuse not to show up at the appointed time and do the appropriated job. I’ve heard so many excuses, I can’t remember them all. I have a headache; I’m tired; my friend needs help with his homework; the dog is lonely; it’s the last weekend of summer; I stubbed my toe; my back hurts; it’s my birthday  — just a few words that made me give in and do all the work myself. The scariest one was, “You let her stay home last week.” So, to be fair, no one gets a break — ever! Work, children, work. Labor is good for you.

9) Remove flip-flops before racing the dog upstairs to clean the upstairs bathroom. Huge bruises on body plus huge bruises on ego equal relief that the progeny did not have time to take video. Enough said.

8) and 7) — 8) Do not neglect to vacuum and dust hidden windowsills at the back of the building. When you do neglect to vacuum and dust said hidden windowsills, expect to find a dead bird rotting there. 7) Order the boy child to scoop up and throw away dead, rotting bird found in hidden windowsill. Provide him with paper towels and a garbage bag, and try to ignore his disgust.

6) Do not laugh when one of the children knocks over a mop bucket and must spend an extra hour cleaning it up. Teenagers do not enjoy being laughed at. Assure said teenager that the entire building smells better because of the accident.

5) Never tip for a job well-done. Once they receive the extra cash, they expect it every time. If you don’t believe me, reread the brilliant picture book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”. Teenager = mouse. Money = cookie.

4) and 3) After spending all your money on expensive ipods for the children, steal their old, cheap mp3 players and put all your classic rock on it. There is nothing better than Aerosmith and Journey for cleaning toilets. Hint: the brush makes a terrific air microphone, and loud singing never fails to make children roll their eyes. Be sure to include some new music as well. The kids really do have good taste. My personal favorites for vacuuming are Muse, The Fray, and Switchfoot. 3) On a related note, when the kids are walking around with their earbuds in, point at them and move your mouth. When they remove the earbuds, say “What? I wasn’t talking to you.” If they ask you a question you don’t want to answer, point to the earbuds in your own ears and shrug. This drives them crazy and is fun.

2) On a more serious note, my genius daughter spent hours every Saturday night for months trying to clean the tops of our round plastic tables. The once white tables were looking gray and dingy. She tried spray cleansers, powdered cleansers, and bleach, all to no avail. A friend who was cleaning out her house gave us a package of Magic Erase sponges. A little elbow greese was applied, and the tables were once again white and wonderful. I don’t care how much they cost; I like them.

1) Finally, smile with satisfaction when the oldest fills out her first job application and has something to put in the work experience box. The job is tough sometimes, but I’ve given her the opportunity to become a valuable toilet swishing employee.     

Thank you, Labor Day, for a chance to reflect.

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