Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Sticker Chart

Did you ever have a sticker chart?

My friend Kristi has them for her kids, because she is uber organized and has the foresight to commend good behavior and not just yell at bad behavior. She printed it out herself, and there's lines and check marks and gold star stickers. Amazing.

Moira wants one, because she's like that. She wants me to ask Kristi where to purchase these amazing materials and write things like Make Your Bed, Pick Up Toys, Brush Teeth, Be Amazing First Born Child.

I've told Moira that I'm not a complete dunce and I know how to make an Excel sheet but she just gives me The Look that clearly says I'm not altogether capable of creating such a holy object. She is a little bit right. I don't know where to buy those foil stickers. I don't know where teachers buy them, and I felt as a child that said stickers were a bit over the top. It added a stress rather than rewarded my obvious genius. I had to worry if I would get a good grade, but then I had to worry about the remarks the teacher would make in green ink. (She didn't use red because that struck fear, but really all she did was make me wary of green pens.) I had to worry about the sticker I might or might not receive and then I had to worry if it was as intricate or cool as the other kids'. I just feel that sticker politics do not add to a child's well being. And of course God saw fit to give me a child that would jump through a troop and leap over a wall to receive a sticker for any completed task. I digress.

Well, I was thinking last night about the sticker chart and how it might be helpful. With the oh-so-modern American life my family is participating in, I find that my Blessed Google Calendar is now operating as a personal assistant of sorts. Granted, it can't actually perform the tasks I record, but it does remind me in multiple colors on my phone, calendar, and email that I need to remember to Give Kids A Shower and Buy Lunch Meat So As Not To Send Kids To School With Dry Oatmeal Again.
I've started printing out the week's activities/tortures and putting the information on my fridge so I can have a constant reminder of what is coming next and what is still overdue (Put Away Laundry and Bake Banana Bread). I also add handwritten notes about ideas for dinners that sound chic and doable at the time but soon become an insurmountable task that has me cursing the color-coded map of This Week In My Life.
I had a thought. Perhaps it was too much to ask a calendar to be my everything. Maybe it should just record who needs to go where for what meeting or appointment. Calendars shouldn't have to remind me to Pluck My Eyebrows or Pumice My Reptilian Feet. I needed something else. I needed a sticker chart.

I thought that it might be a good idea to make a sticker chart for Moira, Sabra, and myself. I could just see the cheery little charts attached to the fridge, showing our ability to stay organized in a whimsical cherry print with scratch-and-sniff stickers. The planets would align. The soon-to-be nursery would clean and assemble itself while I looked on, singing like bloody Mary Poppins. All that stood between me and a life of clean lines and a functional sock drawer was a piece of paper with foil stars.
I started thinking of all the things I need to do in one day, including those things that we are supposed to do daily (Floss, Take vitamin) but often leave til 'later' (once per month). I won't bore you with my mental list, but let's just say it was a bit intense. I bit off my remaining cuticles while staring at the wall, jotting down in the ironclad recesses of my brain the menial and yet mandatory actions and tasks I must accomplish in order to keep the wheels of this small family rotating.

We've all read that ridiculous email about what a 'housewife/homemaker/stay at home crazy' is worth. I'm guessing that some husband put that together when his wife told him how miserable she was trying to find self-worth in the front seat of her minivan. It was nice of that anonymous man to tell the world at large that a crazy lady drinking Bailey's in her coffee before 10 a.m. is worth more than a personal chef, chauffeur, assistant, launderer, maid, nanny, and gardener. But I disagree with the well-meaning spouse of a woman gone mad. I don't feel even a tiny bit more appreciated or fulfilled by knowing that people get paid to do this stuff. It doesn't help that no matter how many stars I get, there's always so many more blank spaces that loom large and white and taunt me with my lack of efficacy.
Now, I'm not being down on myself. I'm actually the best candidate in my household for keeping the wheels turning. Everyone has their gifts and shortcomings. Austin, for his varied talents and killer good looks, had a shocking lack of attention. He knows the leaders of the Roman Empire and which ones slept with which slaves. He remembers entire passages of the Bible after a quick scan of the text. He can take someone's arm off with his volleyball serve, and he makes perfectly symmetrical pancakes. But I really think he would let three weeks pass by before he thought to give the kids a shower. He would give them a piece of gum instead of brushing their teeth, and he would make all manner of clothing faux pas. I'm not sure why he cannot remember things that are done EVERY DAY, such as dinner, but he does. It continues to irk and amaze me that such a smart, normal person can forget to do things like eat a meal.
Most smart women know that most smart men would weep and beat their breasts by the time Fish Stick and Ore*Ida Time rolled around if they had to 'do it all' and still appear to be holding on tightly to threads of sanity. If you haven't picked up on it before, I'm quite under the impression that women are superior to men in almost every way. And I'm not being cheeky or cute. Women get the thankless hair-pulling task of carrying, delivering, feeding, bathing, clothing, medicating, educating and loving children because men simply could not handle it all. The blow to their ego would be too great.
When I'm comparing myself to my picture perfect spouse, I remember that if he had to keep track of all of Sabra's daily medications and remember all of Moira's phobias while doing art projects and playing dolls and finding more efficient ways of lunch packing AND going to a meaningless paid job, he too would be reduced to a frizzy haired harpy that cries when Steve from Blue's Clues gets to go to college.
The sticker chart and the email that says I should make 350,000 per year aren't doing it for me. No amount of money IN THE WORLD makes it worth my while to squeeze a teaspoon of self-worth from the dry rock of home maintenance, especially when the rock is now the size of a volcano.

In short, the sticker chart doesn't work. Not for me, anyways. I'll still (try to) remember to get Moira a cute little chart with bubble letters that say 'do your best!' and applaud her faithfulness in picking up her toys. But her chart only has a few lines to fill. If I made her list, like mine, run multiple pages with cross references to Austin's schedule and the paycheck schedule and the sales on pudding cups at Target, I think she would become glassy-eyed and start gnawing at her cuticles.
Instead of gold foil stars, give me gold foil wrapped chocolates. I'll eat them instead of my cuticles and try to be at peace with the chaotic home in which I reside. And if I can one day laugh at the sock pile, I'll just cross that off my mental chart of Things That Annoy The Hell Out Of Me.


Steph said...


and you can get the gold stars at walmart, target, michaels... probably even the dollar store:)

Kari said...

We tried the sticker chart. I either forgot to have them put stickers on OR just plain ran out of time to walk the child through the chores listed on the chart. I think they will survive w/o the dang chart.