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September 10, 2008

Satan's Chore Chart

AnnaIf there is a hell, then surely tacked onto the wall next to each cot of nails is a chore chart.

You know the kind - with primary-colored wheels and perky fonts.  There are little windows where the tasks for each day of the week are visible ("Refill brimstone troughs of the damned").  Then, when you've completed the task, you turn the knob for positive reinforcement ("Great job, cursed grub-servant!")

Anyway, we've had these two charts in our house for quite a while now (some would say years), one in each child's room.  Like many items around here, the charts were purchased on impulse and at an inappropriate time, developmentally speaking.  In other words, they were installed when the children were too young to adhere to the chore-chart system.  And, as often happens, I promptly forgot about them (the charts, not the children).

Until a couple of weeks ago.

Shortly before school started, I collected both charts.  (This took some help from my son, who pointed out where the chart was hanging on his wall - right in front of me.  Apparently, it had been there untouched for so long that, in my mind, it had turned into another Pokemon poster.) 

The three of us sat down and discussed the fact that, since they were starting third and fourth grade, it was time to get serious about some daily tasks.  We talked about what those tasks should be.  No frontiers were blazed here, just the usual bed-making, towel-hanging and piano-practicing.  I was pretty excited, though.  (I'm a sucker for the comfort of an organizational tool with flashy colors and moving parts.)  The children seemed to sense that, since they'd skated around these chores for so long, it would be wise to go down without a fight and embrace the new system.

Great!  Major progress!

Then my son looks at me and says, "What chores are you going to put on your chart, Mommy?"

What the--?

I explained to him in short order that mommies do about a zillion things, most of them simultaneously, and we don't need no stinkin' chart to--well, you get the picture.

Later, however, I found myself thinking about the chart again.  I always have a rolling to-do list, the original of which was started in 1978 and which gets updated and rewritten as necessary.  The to-do list is the repository of all projects, both short-and long-term.  (An example:  "Get house painted."  That item has been on the to-do list for at least two years.  In that time, it has evolved from a concrete task into more of a theory...a daydream...a musing.)

A daily chore chart, on the other hand, implies a discipline.  A meditation.  A practice.  Hmmm, I smell an opportunity for self-improvement that will (bonus!) indulge my anal-retentive compulsion to memorialize the completion of tasks with the twirling of shiny, celebratory knobs.  I'm in!

Okay, let's see...daily tasks...

  • Meditate.  (Not really a chore, is it?  More of a treat for myself.  Shouldn't count.)
  • Pack nutritious lunches for kids.  (Who am I kidding?  I pack the worst lunches ever.  They asked me to stop.)
  • Write in my journal.  (More writing?  Enough with the written introspection, already.)
  • Appreciate nature.  (Lifted that from the Patagonia catalog.  Feels wrong to steal material for chore chart.)
  • Control road rage.  (Would be simple of other drivers weren't such ass-clowns.)
  • Hang up towel.

Stupid chart.

This is an original post to LA Moms Blog.

Anna Lefler is a novelist and standup comic who lives with her family in the sketchy part of Santa Monica.  She hopes you'll visit her personal bog, which is parked over yonder at Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder.


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