Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sweet Rewards

This afternoon my son came bounding home after playing with his friend so I could take him to his batting and catching practice for the upcoming baseball season. Today was a gorgeous sunny day, my son had a sleep over last night, and he was tired and wanted to stay home. As I’m putting on my sunglasses, purse slung over my shoulder, my son starts moaning.

“Owwwwhhhww. My knee cap really hurts mom. Ohhhhuughhh owwwoouuhg.”
I’m at the top of the stairs. I have the keys in my hand. I have a glare on my face.
“Get up, you are going to baseball,” I say in my angry mom voice.
“Seeerrriousssly mom! My legs hurts so bad,,, OOOHHHH, there it goes again, my knee, my knee, my knee!”

Now these are the moments in my life where I always play the wrong card. Always. If he really is hurt, I’ll force him to go which will injure him further and scar him for life because I “never listen to him.” On the other hand, if I believe what he says about being totally incapacitated, his knee being on the verge of snapping like an ice covered twig and let him stay home, he’ll really be fine and just playing me, which will reward the behavior and he’ll do it again. I’m screwed either way.

I perform my due diligence and inspect both knees. I push on one. I push on the other. One definitely feels squishier. One does look a tad swollen. Crap. Maybe his knee cap really is hurt. I decide to do what all good moms do: go ask my husband.

His advice? Take him to baseball. Tell him to be easy on it, he’ll be fine. This way when I break the news to my son, I can say, “Dad said to take you and you’ll be fine.” This alleviates a bit of my guilt since I didn’t really make the last call. I walk upstairs to tell my son and offer to give him some ibuprofen to ease the pain. (I am not above drugging my children if they think it will help them.)

He’s whining. He’s moaning. I’m getting fed up because we are going to be late to practice and I was planning on dropping him off and running to Home Depot. He’s starting to screw with my errands.

“You’re going to be fine,” I say. The medicine will help you feel better and you can ice it on the way to practice. You just tell the coaches if your knee cap is hurting too badly.”
“Can I have a bag of Skittles when practice is over?” He asks.
“Sure,” I reply.

And like Lazarus rising from his death bed, my son stands up, grabs his glove and bat, and walks down the steps to the car. It’s an absolute Skittle miracle.

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths children will go to for a piece of candy. My daughter will carry my son’s trumpet home from the bus stop for a single Jolly Rancher. When I was teaching I could get 26 second graders to suck the carpet spotless with their milk straws for a candy corn. I’ve gotten my two year old to pick up all the toys in the living room for a frozen ice pop. For two ice pops she’d probably dust the baseboards.

What happened to the reward system of my youth? “Do it because I said so!” or “You’ll do it or else!” or even “If you don’t do this right now, you’ll be sorry!” What happened to those motivational quips? I can tell you if I said any of those to my children attempting to get them to perform some sort of task, they would stare at me expressionless. What did she just say to us? They’d think. Is she trying to use rhetoric to get us to perform like monkies? We only work for cold, hard, candy.

I’m sure the pendulum started its backswing when moms everywhere began giving their children M&M’s for going pee-pee and doodie on the potty. Frantic that Prince and Princess wouldn’t be ready for pre-school, parents everywhere panicked and introduced the candy store to the bathroom—resulting in a funky Wonka-porcelain vibe. At the ripe old age of two, our children began to associate performing an action with sweet rewards and just like the apple in the Garden of Eden (from a grafted tree mind you), the rest is history. Don’t look so righteous. You know you’ve done it.

Wouldn’t it be great if candy continued to be such a motivator throughout life? Can you imagine what would get done in the house with a bag of your husband’s favorite candy snack?
Wife: “Oh Huun-nnie!” (in sing song voice)
Husband: “Yes, dear?”
Wife: “Could you please hang the wall mirror over the mantle in the living room and rearrange the furniture when you are done? I have some Milk Duds for you!” (in sing song voice rattling the box over her head.)
Husband: “Absolutely! No problem! If you throw in some Junior Mints I’ll sand and refinish the hardwood floors while I’m at it!”
Wife: “Why Dear! I have a box of those too!”

Or how about in the workplace:
(Setting: a company meeting)
Boss: “Okay ladies and gentlemen. I need to have two volunteers work all night doing research for our newest client and type up a 450 page report on the strategy they feel would be best going forward, and I’ll need this information on my desk by 8:00 tomorrow morning. Guuuesss whhhattt I’ve goootttt?” (Pulls from behind his back…)
“A box of Rasinettes and Lemonheads for the lucky volunteers!”
Group: (All hands raised at once) Me! MeMe! MeME! Me!

If adults were as motivated by candy as children we could restructure the world in about a week. Find a cure for cancer. Establish world peace. But alas. We grow up and candy is no longer the motivator that is was. Oh sure, a few women will do some crazy things for a box of high quality dark chocolates, but beyond that, candy’s lost its joie de vivre. Maybe it’s because we are suddenly in control of it. Our parents are no longer in charge of the candy cabinet and we do not have to ask permission. Once you can purchase the stuff yourself anytime you want it, it’s no longer interesting.

Well, for now I’m going to ride this locomotive until the tracks run out and the conductor tells me to get my butt off the train. Don’t bother giving me any psycho-babble about "natural rewards" for everyday tasks. After a grueling weekend my house is completely trashed. I have a whole cabinet of leftover Valentine’s Day candy and three willing candy goblins asleep in bed. It’s gonna be a great week.

(Cue Music: “Good day sunshine….good day sunshine…..good day sun shine…”)


Dianne said...

Being a pro at the wavering yes/no/ask your dad/I'll give you five bucks/gum/whatever you're into at the time technique, this one really hits home. So nice to think I'm but one of many great sellout moms! So funny.

Megan said...

I was laughing so hard- I was crying....this being said after I just created a "stay in bed" basket that the kids can choose one plastic egg from each morning that they stay in their bed. There is a chance to get an egg with candy, money and extra books/time at bed time. I know the power of candy!