“Oh, Hon, it’s beautiful!” I said as I opened up the carefully wrapped package. I had just come to understand where my oldest son (age 11) had gone the day before on his solo bike ride. I’d thought it unusual when he’d headed toward Main Street instead of the rail trail. I realized he’d gone to a gift shop several blocks away. “Did they wrap it for you?”
“Yeah,” he said with a lopsided grin. “The lady offered to…”
“Did she help you pick it out, too?”
“No, I did that all by myself. There was another one I liked, but I thought this one was better for you.”
“This one’s perfect; I love it!” I slipped the unique silver and amber-colored crystal ring on my finger and admired my hand, glad I’d done my nails recently.
“And he spent all his money on it – yeah, he spent…” his brothers piped up.
“La la la la la,” I sang with my hands over my ears. When their mouths weren’t moving anymore, I took my hands away. “I don’t want to know anything about that. We don’t talk about the cost of a gift, because the value could be much different.”
But I couldn’t ignore what I had heard. “Did you?” I turned to my oldest.
“Well, not all of it…”
My son had started the “Chore Apprentice Program” this year.
“What’s that!?” or “Good luck with that!” were comments I had received from friends. Really all the “program” entails is my son comes home from school rather than go to Extended Day and learns how to do things around the house, like dishes, laundry, vacuuming, simple cooking, or a trip to the store around the corner. Not only does he earn money for performing his jobs, but also he learns skills that he will need when he leaves the nest, because contrary to earlier beliefs, his wife is not going to do “all that stuff.” And even if his wife did do some of “that stuff,” he’s going to need to know how not to turn his laundry pink, not to eat on paper plates for every meal, and not to breed dust bunnies in between the time that he leaves home and gets married.
“But what about your sweatshirt?”
A couple of weeks prior we’d been in a sporting goods store and he’d spied a had-to-have, brand-name sweatshirt. “I really want to get that, Mom. Can you lend me the money? I’ve already got almost half.”
“Are you sure you want to spend that much money on a sweatshirt? You can buy this one over here for the money you do have.”
“Well, that one’s not abc brand.”
“So? You think because it’s abc brand it’s worth double?”
“Well, to me it is. Can you lend me the money?”
“No, Hon, that’s too much of a risk for me.”
“C’mon Mom, if I don’t pay you back, you don’t have to pay me my allowance.”
“Nope. How would I ensure you did any chores if I didn’t pay you?”
“But Mah-ahm. What if they sell out?”
“Look, if I were a bank, I wouldn’t be comfortable with that kind of lending risk, not even with a really high interest rate.”
My son scowled and glowered at me all the way out of the store and for a good amount of time during the car ride, too. We did not discuss it further.
“I can start saving up again.”
“It’ll take a while…”
“That’s okay, Mom.”
Even though the ring really is beautiful, it’s my son’s thoughtfulness and sacrifice that I value the most. I was tempted to buy him the sweatshirt – it’s not like we aren’t in that particular sporting goods store every other week or so anyway. But neither did I want to devalue my son’s gift to me nor the purchase he was going to make for himself, so I didn’t.
Thanks to the Chore Apprentice Program, it wasn’t long before he acquired his sweatshirt – and he knows how to wash it, too.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. ~2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV