I never knew I had such industrious boys.
Yesterday, after our first real snowfall of the season, the kids were outside shovelling our driveway clean, and did a remarkably good job.
The boys then decided, as they did last year on several occasions, to shovel the driveway of our retired neighbours. They have never told the neighbours that they do this - they've just seen one of them struggling with it on occasion and decided to help whenever they could. I've always appreciated that about my kind-hearted boys.
Unlike on prior occasions, this time one of our neighbours saw the boys shovelling her driveway and, when they had finished, she called them over and gave them $20 plus a box of cookies and a heap of thanks. The boys emphatically said that they didn't need any money for doing the work they had chosen to do (though they would accept the cookies!), but she continued to insist and so they eventually came home with a $20 bill in their hands. They still felt uncomfortable accepting the money, because they'd done it without talking to her ahead of time, and so ultimately they settled on using the $20 to buy something for our neighbours...so today we will go out and find a little gift for them.
I didn't make a big deal of that decision, or gush about it in any way because I didn't want to make their decision whatsoever about receiving praise from me, but inwardly I really did think that this was a lovely attitude; and when they later asked what I thought of the decision they'd made, I simply said that I thought it was an honourable decision and that I'd be glad to drive them somewhere to pick up a gift for them once they'd decided what to buy.
The idea of money-for-shovelling, though, took root with the boys. They asked if they could offer snow-shovelling to other neighbours and I said yes (quietly putting aside the plans I'd made for the afternoon). We talked about what they would say when they knocked on doors, that they would introduce themselves to any neighbours they didn't know, and they decided that, rather than set a price for shovelling, they would leave it up to the home owner to decide what was fair. I thought this was a good approach, and we practiced a little via role plays (where I played the part of homeowner!).
And so the boys went to our neighbour across the street and she readily hired them to clear her driveway/walkway/stairs. She gave them $20 as well (wow - in my childhood the going rate was just a few dollars!) and, again, they did a great job.
Then they went a few doors down to our newest neighbour and he, too, gave them $20 after shovelling his driveway and path. This man was apparently more particular about the job and after they shovelled, he had them sweep any little bits of snow off of the cleared driveway and tidy up corners; and that was a good experience for them...they did a really good job.
The boys persisted, despite ever-reddening cheeks and tiring shovelling arms! Another neighbour gave them $10 to do a really good job of clearing her steps and entry area before her regular snow-shovelling company arrived to clear her driveway. And a last neighbour before dinner time gave them $10 to clear his driveway.
Altogether, the boys made a whopping $80 between them for a couple of hours of hard work shovelling (though $20 they will use to buy a gift for the first neighbour). After buying a gift for the one neighbour they will still each put $30 into their piggybanks, which is pretty amazing to Seth, who had about $70 stashed away in his piggybank to begin with! Wow - you should have heard their squeals of delight as they came in for dinner, having completed five driveways (including our own) and a set of steps. They were cold, tired, starving...and elated!!
Seth asked me when they came in if shovelling our driveway is something that Geoff and I would pay them for. I smiled, figuring that this question might occur to one of them. But before I could answer, Matthew spoke up: "Seth, shovelling our own driveway is something that we do because we're a family, and we all need to do jobs to keep our house going."
Well, I couldn't have said that better myself! And I felt a little proud about that answer because that's truly how I feel on the subject - that I wouldn't pay for doing jobs (big or small) around the house because it's our home...a family home...and we all need to make a contribution to our family and home in order to make things work properly. It's the precise reason why I haven't taken my parents up on their incredibly generous offer to bring cleaners into my home every two weeks; I want my kids to know how to clean and how to take care of the family home without expectation of payment and without assuming that someone else will do the job for them. We don't do a great job of keeping our home tidy or clean (especially because we tend to clean one room at a time and so the whole house never really gets cleaned at one time...but whatever), but we do work at it daily, and I have cleaning and home maintenance as goals for my kids by the time they're adults and ready to take care of their own homes.
Anyway, I am proud of the boys' industriousness and good attitudes, and proud that they did really good jobs of all of the driveways - I examined each driveway as I later headed out for my usual Thursday evening out and was a little impressed that 10- and 11-year-old boys could accomplish that. Today, although we've had no more snow overnight, the boys plan to go to the driveways they cleared yesterday and provide a little touch-up by sweeping or shovelling off any snow that drifted since yesterday afternoon...this was my idea originally, but they took up on it and thought it was great for the best customer service...because maybe they'll get hired again!
Guess who's hoping for another big dump of snow??!!