Saturday, September 4, 2010

Button Jars

Faced with a long summer in a house full of boys, I started “button jars” for chores. I filled three blue mason jars with buttons left over from when my Grandma Lucas worked in the garment factory. Each boy got a pair of jars – one with buttons and a tag with their initial and one empty one with a tag where they wrote what they wanted to earn. The three year old wanted Buzz Lightyear Legos. The eight year old waffled between an incubator to clone dinosaurs and a remote control helicopter. My ten year old knew immediately he wanted a new bike.

All summer long the boys did chores to earn buttons and we watched one jar fill as the other jar emptied. The rallying cry around our house became “Mom, how many buttons is this worth?” The answers ranged from two buttons to “Just do it because I told you to!” There were hundreds of buttons in the jars and as the summer progressed the initial enthusiasm began to fade for everyone except the ten year old. He wanted that bike.

He helped around the house, fed and cared for the animals and worked alongside his daddy in the dirt and heat. He came in sweaty, filthy and sometimes exhausted. Every night after his shower he held out his hands to catch the buttons he’d earned that day.

Ever since he was a little boy, his daddy and I have had to remind each other that he is a kid. He has always been so grown up; when he does something childish, it catches me off guard. This summer with the button jars made it even harder to remember he’s a child. He worked like a man -albeit a young one -next to his daddy for long days in 100 degree heat. He did not complain. He was enthusiastic and a joy to have around, and he earned his buttons.

On Wednesday he dropped the last two buttons into his jar, and on Friday his bike was waiting for him when he got home from school. I am so proud of him and so impressed with his determination. Much more important, however, he is proud of himself, and he’s learned how good it feels to have something you worked hard to get.

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