A Grandson’s Entreaty
I knew something was afoot as soon as he came into the room. He’d swapped the storm trooper persona for Little Lord Fauntleroy, and, for a moment, I felt quite sure that all the breakables in the room sighed with relief. He’s nearly 5, his name’s Jude and he’s my grandson. As soon as he said ‘Hi Poppa’, I sensed that this was a serious visit. It wasn’t a ‘Hi Poppa’ leading into a ‘Can I have a chocolate or watch TV’ overture; this was serious enough to stand still and maintain eye contact, a sure sign that matters of great import were about to be discussed. Feeling that whatever ensued would have some impact on my basic serenity or my wallet, I decided to take the initiative and said ‘What’s up mate?’ In common with most 5 year-olds, Jude can switch facial expression and voice inflection with thespian ease in order to achieve his ends and after a deep breath he made his pitch: ‘I need some pocket money Poppa, can I do some jobs?’
Struggling to match his seriousness, I asked ‘What do you want the money for?’ The kindergarten control freak evaporated and the 5 year old blurted out ‘A purple scooter!’ I decided to enjoy having the upper hand for a moment or two before asking how much purple scooters cost. We both agreed that $125-00 was a lot of money and getting it would mean a lot of work. At that point, Nanny, unable to restrain herself any longer, decided to enter the negotiations. A renowned solver of children’s emotional hurdles as well as a soft touch, she ended the impasse by offering to match dollars earned with dollar donations. Both sides were happy at this and all that was left was to negotiate the nature and volume of work, plus, of course, the rate of pay.
The Job Specifications
Job Number One was polishing the brass weights of Mr Ballard’s scales. It was a joint effort taking about half-an-hour and paying $5-00, but with Nanny’s top-up, things were looking pretty good. Job Number Two, also $5-00, was sweeping the deck. This didn’t go quite as well as Job Number One. It might have been fatigue or boredom, but he seemed to prefer to distribute the leaves rather than actually collect them for disposal. Anxious to be a responsible employer, I suggested an ice cream break. Hoping to re-kindle the enthusiasm, I said that $20-00 for the first hour wasn’t bad going and that there were probably a lot more little jobs around. His Great Uncle would be arriving from Australia soon and he was sure to have some jobs. ‘We’ll get this scooter in no time’, I assured him. He lapsed into thoughtful mode before suggesting that perhaps we could get the scooter first and earn the money later. Initiative or unmitigated gall? Hard to say really, but obviously worth a punt and a sure indication of a dealer mentality in infancy.
But that of course put the ball back in my court: do I take a hard stand or cave in as usual? I decided firm but fair was the way to go. Next week was weeding and windows, both $10-00 jobs and with Nanny’s top-up, we’d be halfway to the target. The second work day went well, the goal was reached, TV on and employer/employee relations were fine until mother arrived and shifted the goalposts. There was, she gleefully announced, a super sale on at the store this very Thursday and there was no doubt that purple scooters would be greatly discounted. Not wishing to re-negotiate an employment contract that I knew the little thug would get the thick end of, I decided that benevolent capitulation would paint me in the best light and said ‘Well, we’re halfway there, so I suppose we could get the scooter on Thursday and work the balance off over the next couple of weeks’. Mother positively bristled with parental firmness ‘We’ll get it on Thursday and put it away until the jobs are finished’… Yeah right! The embryonic extortionist was smart enough not to comment, but I knew I was beaten, and have decided that offering gainful employment to one’s nearest and dearest is fraught with emotional hurdles; it’s much easier to be just an old sucker. But if you spot a small child flying around on a purple scooter, please remember he conned his way into it and he didn’t get that from me!