Sunday, October 02, 2005

Flower Power

One technique my mother used in running her foster home was hard labor. No, not crushing rock with a sledge hammer...just making kids help do things around the house. The results varied depending on the foster kid. I remember several who actually loved doing this sort of thing. Mow the lawn? Not a problem. Help with vacuuming, dusting and so forth? Okay. Other kids acted like you'd stuck a shiv in their toe when you asked them to do things like sweep the floor or clean some windows. Those were the fun ones, because they made so much noise about simple things. I was actually one of those sometimes, but never mind that.

Anyway, our situation is a little different, due mainly to the fact that while Mom was a career woman and really needed to have kids do things like that because she just couldn't, we are able to afford keeping The Wife at home full time, and so she has the opportunity to do what needs doing without resorting to slaves.

You see the ethical dilemma here, right? The Wife can't very well sit on the couch eating bon bons and soaking her nails while cracking the whip for the foster kids to clean the baseboards with their toothbrush. It wouldn't be right...and have you ever tried to actually crack a whip while soaking your nails? It ain't easy, my friend. And never mind how I know that.

So tonight we began the process of making work for future foster kids planting flowers. We have 309 bulbs to plant, and we probably planted over 100 tonight...the rest to be planted in the evenings this week as we figure out where they need to be to achieve maximum beauty in our lives and provide maximum opportunities for foster kids to do watering, weeding, etc.

Seriously, gardening is an activity that isn't too physically onerous, it's something The Wife and I will be doing ourselves, it's an activity we can do as a family to spend time together, and it'll be something they can do instead of, oh, say, holding up the convenience store in town or ripping the wings off of insects. The good kid will probably enjoy it, the average one probably won't see the point and be mildly annoyed and the more difficult one will likely hate it like's perfect. Nothing like a proportional response, eh? No "weapons of mass destruction" here. Weeders will know ahead of time what the penalties are (1 hour? 2 hours?) and what will bring them about. It will be made very, very clear. Then the little darlings will proceed to do the very things that they have been told very clearly will bring about gardening time as punishment, and then they will be made to maintain our plants. When everybody's good, I'll do it on my own. I figure to spend at least 5 or 10 minutes doing gardening next summer on my own. The rest of the time, I'll almost certainly have company. It's a law of foster physics. Tell them what they are not supposed to be doing and they will do it.

And as an added bonus, it'll salve our bruised consciences to know that while their pain is our pleasure, it can be dressed up to be egalitarian, educational and non-child-abuse-allegation-producing. Until I start them cultivating the back forty on their own on school vacation days, anyway.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go soak the whips. You didn't think they'll be willing to participate in our little impromptu delinquents' occupational program without a little prodding, did you?


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