One autumn day, when I was very young, I came home from school with a burning question.
I burst through the door with enthusiasm and yelled out, “MOM! Can I have an allowance?!”
I can’t recall what we learned in school that day, but I remember learning the concept of an allowance. It blew my mind. Kids were paid. Paid to do things around the house. The things that I did for free. Incredible. I must have been an idiot to do things around the house for free.
My mother strolled into the kitchen, casually. She raised her eyebrows and asked, “You want an allowance, eh?”
“Yes, please,” I said with a smile, not expecting her response.
“I allow you to wear those clothes! I allow you to EAT THE FOOD I COOK! I ALLOW YOU TO LIVE IN MY HOME!!!” she replied, in crescendo. “Is that not good enough?”
At the time, I was mortified. Not that I wasn’t used to loud noises, they were the norm in what neighbors had dubbed “the loud house.” I just realized, at that moment, that I was being raised much differently than other American kids.
“No, mom, that’s good.”
“Good. Go outside and pick the beans, and don’t come inside until you have two baskets full.”
At the time, I was very upset. I wanted some money to pick those damn beans. I probably talked back, and told her I wasn’t slave labor. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my mother was doing me a favor. Years later, I can look back and appreciate it. I didn’t deserve to be paid. I needed to pitch in around the house, because that’s what a family does. They don’t merely coexist, but they live together, as a unit. I’m sure an allowance can teach kids fiscal responsibility, but so will their first job. It was my duty to take care of the beans, or weed the strawberries, or wash the dishes, or take out the trash, or clean the toilet. I didn’t like it, and those jobs are still unappealing, but they are necessary. It built character. Today, I earn money at work for doing my job. At home, I work for free, because I have to. I didn’t deserve money for chores then and I don’t now.