by Jurgen Haver
My son Jason wanted a new bike. I told him, “That’s great. You can earn the money for it this weekend.”
He thought that meant he’d breeze through some light chores like raking up a small pile of leaves. Then off to the store he’d go.
“Not so fast,” I said. Eleven-year-olds are more than ready to know about real work and real contracts. I told him we would put in writing what was to be done and how much money each chore would be worth.
So we sat down together on Friday, man to man, and the agreement was drawn up and signed. Then Jason headed outside to start the job. He was going to rake the leaves, trim the bushes, clear away dead branches, stir the compost and fertilize around the trees.
At dinnertime he said, “Dad, can I have my money now?” He wanted to go with his friend on a shopping trip.
“Your contract isn’t finished. When the work is done, the worker is paid,” I said. He wanted to argue, but he could see that would be no use.
The next morning he set out for work. But when the sun turned hot he came inside asking, “Can I have my money now?”
“When the work is done the worker is paid,” I said.
“Can’t I get an advance on what I’m owed?” he asked. But I reminded him that I was once eleven years old. Enough said. There was no need to argue. I had a mantra to repeat: “When the work is done the worker is paid.”
Jason came back to me two more times that Saturday asking to be paid. But each time we went outside and looked over his work. Pointing to the pile of leaves, I repeated my phrase.
That evening, when Jason stumbled onto the couch, he was too tired to think about money. But when he said, “It’s done,” I knew he was telling the truth. The next day when I paid him, I asked about his shopping plans. He hesitated. He was beginning to think his hard-earned money shouldn’t be spent too quickly.
Although Jason is now grown up and raising children of his own, he still remembers that weekend. And he’s never tried to shirk work since the days of the Yard Work Contract.