Last week, a sweet friend of mine invited me and my kids to every stay-at-home mom’s most dreaded destination.
You know: A rock star rat. Hordes of children running frantically from one video game to another. A counter with all the plastic junk your child can afford with the tickets he has earned.
Chuck E. Cheese.
Actually, we were overjoyed by the invitation! We had been wanting to get together with this family for a few weeks and we were honored to get to celebrate their youngest daughter’s birthday. And if a quiet little 5-year-old who has to compete with two older sisters and one older brother for attention on this planet wants to go to Chuck E. Cheese for her birthday, let me tell you: I will BE THERE!
I have a special place in my heart for fourth borns. I also had two older sisters and an older brother and lived most of my childhood in complete silence because I didn’t think anyone could actually hear me talking over all of the commotion in our house. But my life growing up with imaginary friends is a topic for another day!
Anyway. We were excited to take a break from the sun for the afternoon and hang out at Chuck E. Cheese.
My children ran around in a frenzy trying to play video games as quickly as possible and gather as many tickets as their little sweaty hands could hold. After what seemed like several hours, they stuffed their tickets in The Muncher so they could be presented their little “receipt” showing how many points they had earned.
When they arrived back at my table with the reward for their efforts, I could barely contain my shock.
“You earned 59 points and all you got was a twisty straw and a piece of Laffy Taffy?!?”
“Ummm. Ummm. I mean… Wow! That’s great, honey! A new twisty straw!”
They didn’t seem the slightest bit disappointed that their hard work playing video games had resulted in such small prizes.
So, this week when the dumb weather man said it was going to storm all day and we canceled the awesome plans we had with friends and then it didn’t rain at all, I remembered Chuck and the way he had enticed my children with his tickets and the promise of fabulous rewards that turned out to be cheap plastic toys.
I told my kids we were going to have Chuck E. Cheese Cleaning Day!
I went into my office and quickly created a spreadsheet with every chore I could imagine.
With a big “Woo Hoo!” and a lot of fanfare, I produced this massive chart of all of the deep cleaning we needed to do for the day. Oh, this wasn’t their normal list of chores. We’re talking windows, mopping, vacuuming, putting away baskets of laundry and cleaning the basement.
For each chore, I assigned a certain number of tickets they would earn for successful completion. Most of the chores were only worth one ticket. Only the really strenuous jobs like mopping and vacuuming were worth two or three tickets.
Then, I set the value of their rewards.
I was cunning. I dangled THE MOST valued prize of all in our home: Playing one hour of Crash Bandicoot on our old X-Box. This is something that only their dad lets them do on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Mom pretty much never says yes to Crash, so this was a major reward.
They also could earn time playing the Wii, a bike ride or a trip to the park. (A-hem. Sorry to say you already know what they were working toward.)
The price for an hour of Crash was 15 tickets.
They started cleaning like crazy, and they were still going at it several hours later. My main job was to follow them around, confirming they had completed the job properly and handing out tickets.
The 8-year-old finished around lunchtime. The 6-year-old had one more chore to complete after lunch. And even the 4-year-old got a second wind around 5 p.m. and earned three more tickets after she saw her brothers playing video games late in the afternoon.
They were amazing. And they proved that they can pretty much do all of the household cleaning around here without my assistance.
You will not believe what they said at the end of the day.
“Mom, can we have Chuck E. Cheese Cleaning Day again tomorrow?!?”
I’m hoping I will be out of a job soon.