A few nights ago Dan and I were tired and Wanda was crying for a shnuli (binkie) so I turned to Magoo and said, “Six points if you run upstairs and find Wanda's dragon shnuli.” He stopped, his little six-year-old ears perking up.
“Six points?” He said. “I get SIX POINTS?!” He hurried up the stairs faster than I’ve seen him run in a long time. Dan and I exchanged glances, wondering what Magoo thought the points were for.
A few minutes later, Magoo reappeared, a little out of breath and asking if he’d made it fast enough to get the six points. I told him he had and he looked at me expectantly so I gave him another task, assigning another random points value and away he went.
Eventually, he asked what the points were for. I told him they were for awesomeness but he wanted to know what they were FOR, like what you would get for them. I told him that the points were for the House Cup, just like in Harry Potter, except ours would be an imaginary cup and I would not be keeping track of the points. This confused him for just long enough to do a couple more tasks to earn a couple more points.
He let Laylee in on the secret.
“Hey Laylee. Mom and Dad are giving us points now and I’m totally going to win the House Cup.”
“What?” Laylee whined, “I want some points. What do I do?”
My minions were multiplying so I put them to good use. At this point, Magoo got out a pen and paper and started adding up his points. Six plus four plus two plus five equals seventeen. Bam! Math practice.
Now I’ve come up with several incentive programs and chore management schemes in the past and they usually take a lot of thought and effort on my part to implement. Little did I know that all I had to do was start babbling nonsense authoritatively and my kids would snap into line. Isn’t that a lot of what parenting is – babbling nonsense authoritatively?
At one point, Magoo wanted the hard answers and I wasn’t about to lie.
“What do we actually get if we win the House Cup?” he asked.
I thought about it for a split second. “You get to feel so cool that you’re the winner of the House Cup, even though it doesn’t technically exist.”
“Awwww. That’s it?”
“Yep. But you have to do all this stuff anyway. Wouldn’t you rather do it for points?”
He thought about it, his face scrunched up like he was thinking and then he shrugged his shoulders.
“Okay. How many points do I get if I go to sleep without getting up after I’m in bed?” he asked.
“None. But if you get up out of bed after you’re supposed to be sleeping, I’ll take away ten points like Professor McGonagall would do. Ten points from Magoo-lin-dor!”
“Okay. Okay. Please don’t take my points away!”
That’s what I’m talkin’ about.