Tommy has a job today, helping my friend, Vince, with some yard work. I’m unreasonably nervous about it. I want him to make a good impression. I hope he’s strong and diligent, and that he listens and learns. It’s not hard work – raking and picking up roots and branches, mostly – and I’m sure he’s capable, but still.
At my house, Tommy has a chart to mark his work time, and we have talked about things he can do to earn money here. Lord knows I could use the help! The chart is divided into two sections, as outdoor work pays at a different rate than indoor jobs. We figure his time to the quarter hour.Two days ago, he clocked in a half hour for sweeping.
“What did you sweep?” I asked him.
“The whole downstairs.”
I pointed out that his socks, my shoes, and several dog toys had not been moved from the center of the floor. It appeared that he had also managed to go around – without going under – every single table and chair. I explained that – if he were sweeping out of the goodness of his heart, to help out his old grandma, and not expecting pay – I’d be glad to say, “Good job, Tommy, and thank you very much!”
That changes, I told him, when he expects payment. Then, standards are important. I told him he needed to first pick up everything off the floor: rugs, dog beds, socks, shoes and toys. I told him to move the chairs out to sweep under everything. “Corner to corner, edge to edge,” I said. Yesterday, he clocked one full hour for sweeping. The rugs had not been picked up; the dog beds hadn’t been moved. There were still crumbs on the kitchen floor.
“Yes, I swept for an hour. Honest to god!”
I wanted to suggest that he could have made better time if he hadn’t worked so hard to avoid actually sweeping up anything…but I refrained. I remember my brother Ted at that age, not comfortable with most jobs, and Dad’s sharp reprimands. I did remind Tommy of the standards we talked about, and said that until the floor was actually clean, I was not going to pay him for cleaning it.
We worked together outside. I showed him the weeds to pull around the garden beds; he worked at that while I mowed, then we switched jobs. It was a warm afternoon. When we stopped for a glass of water, Tommy said, “Well, I think that was a good days work!” We had been at it for forty-five minutes. His face fell a little when I told him we were just getting started.
He really wants to make a pocketful of money while he’s here. I want him to feel the pleasure of earning his own money, and the satisfaction of doing a good day’s work…that extends past the first forty-five minutes!
We have a jig-saw puzzle spread out on the table, and are spending evenings putting it together. Last night, we heard one piece drop to the floor. “Better look for it right away,” I said, “’cause you’ll never find it when you sweep…”
“Awright, Grandma, good one,” he grinned.