Child Labor Laws

I have been wondering for a while whether to give my daughters an allowance or not. On one hand I can see the value in my girls earning their money. I am sure they would appreciate being able to buy something with money they actually earned. It could also teach them the value of saving their money and teach them buyer’s remorse when they spend their hard earned money on something that wasn’t really worth it.

Then there is the other part of me that doesn’t like the fact that I am basically telling my children they get paid for just doing their part around the house. Listen, it isn’t like I’m asking them to pour concrete, rent a cherry picker and trim trees or even get on the roof and clean gutters. I am talking about simple things, like keeping their rooms and bathroom clean, putting away the dishes or bringing the recycling to the bin out in the garage.

I don’t like the thought of my girls not doing anything unless I pay them to. There is a difference between teaching them the value of earning a buck and rewarding them for doing the simplest of things. My wife and I can teach our girls responsibility without having to pay for the lesson. I would be more than happy for them, especially without prompting, if they would do some of the small chores around the house. Of course I would also be more than happy to hit a $500 Powerball jackpot, which is only slightly more likely.

The next question is what to pay them? I have memories of earning a quarter as my first allowance and think I might have gotten as high as a dollar but honestly don’t know if that is a real memory or not. Plus, around the fourth grade I got a paper route and made my own money. A dollar nowadays goes nowhere but I don’t want to be shelling out $20 a week for three salaries.

I suggested to Julia who is now 14 to see about getting into babysitting. She informed me she would but first she has to get her First Aid and CPR certifications. Personally I think it is smart to have a babysitter have those certifications before they are allowed to watch children. I also, find it funny that a teenage babysitter would be more qualified to handle a choking child than myself, or I’m willing to bet, most parents are. Do most parents know how to perform First Aid or CPR? Just goes to show you need no qualifications, training or certifications to create and care for a life.

No matter how many times I go back and forth on this issues I still can’t come to a firm decision. It’s not like we don’t buy our kids things outside of essentials (clothes, foods) unless it is their birthday. It also is highly doubtful if we gave them an allowance we would refuse to continue to buy them things that their allowance money didn’t cover. Recently Julia went out to dinner and the movies with her friends, which cost me $20. If I gave her an allowance of say $5 a week it would take her a month to save that.

Should she only be allowed to be able to go out once a month? What about the other two? At $5 a week that would cost us $60 a month. Sure we could pay on an age wage scale but that is a Pandora’s Box of issues waiting to be unleashed. I really don’t want to be paying $60 in salaries a month, especially when I can get that child labor for free.

In the end I don’t think my wife and I will be giving the girls an allowance. We will expect them to do certain things and when they need money as long as they are pulling their weight, we will give it to them. My only hope is that they don’t need money to realize they are part of a family and should pull their weight and accept responsibility. Maybe one day they won’t even need to be asked (yelled out) to do it. I think while I’m at it, I think I’m going to buy some Powerball tickets.


7,000 miles away

“Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder”

-Thomas Haynes Bayly Isle of Beauty 
For the second time in the last two years I recently I spent a week in India for business. Last year my wife guest blogged during my last trip, so I never really got a chance to discuss the experience from my point of view. Obviously I picked that quote above for a reason. This is not to say I have to travel over 7,000 to appreciate my girls.

However, when you travel 7,000 miles you realize has much as you enjoy your “alone” time at home, you are safe in the knowledge your daughters aren’t far away. I like walking the dog, going for a run, heck, even cutting the grass because I get that time without the craziness and to be alone with my thoughts. My wife and I enjoy when the girls are spending the night at someone’s house, so we can have time to ourselves. But these are all short periods of time that you know are only temporary.

My trip was also just temporary, but it was almost a week and again did I mention 7,000 freakin’ miles? It wasn’t one or two days and when you are halfway around the world, you really feel halfway around the world and isolated from the people you love. Now that I have experienced this trip twice I have noticed a pattern has developed. I knew I had to take this trip and booked it months in advance, so it reality doesn’t hit you since it is so far away. It is sort of this thing that is going to happen but it is far enough down the road that there is no reality attached to it.

As you move closer reality starts to set in. The week leading up to the trip I begin to realize I really don’t want to leave my family for a week. I start to think things like “maybe I should fake an injury or sickness.” I am sure my work would love for me to pull something like that and cost them $7k+ of non-refundable money.

The week of the trip is like the Sword of Damocles, just dangling over you. Each day I wanted the week to take longer and longer in some kind of hopes that the trip wouldn’t come. The day of is a minute by minute count down until finally the car arrives and it all begins. To be honest I always end up enjoying the trip from a work perspective. When your job is to manage an offshore team, it is nice to actually meet face to face with that team.

People in India are extremely welcoming and kind. It is certainly a different world but truly a great experience. But, no matter how good the experience, I am still 7,000 miles away from my girls. Luckily the trip is a whirlwind and I don’t have too much time to dwell on how much I miss them. The last day is always the best part, knowing I am on my way home. Each part of the final day, leaving the office for the last time, checking out of the hotel and heading to the airport is all just bringing me closer to my girls.

The flight homes even though long, almost ten hours from Hyderabad to Heathrow and another almost 7 hours from Heathrow to Newark feels much shorter than the trip to India. Sure the incredibly slow moving customs line, and getting my luggage was brutal, but I was still in the right state within the right country. Walking through the door was a great experience, to see how happy my girls were to see me made me feel like a King. Yea, it lasted maybe 5 minutes but man were they a great 5 minutes.

No matter how happy my girls were to see me their enthusiasm paled in comparison to my dog Shadow. He totally upstaged them with his display of happiness and reacted like he won the Stanley Cup, Super Bowl, World Cup and a $500 million power ball lottery all at the same time, just five times greater. images But I digress, I mean he’s a dog, overacting with displays of affection is kind of his thing. No I didn’t have to travel 7,000 miles to realize how much I appreciate my girls, but….it didn’t hurt.

New House, same old family

On July 17th our family experienced one of the biggest moments in our family history, we moved. After twelve and a half years, we left our three bedroom one bathroom ranch home for a four bedroom, two and half bath, and two stories home. You could say it was a move many years in the making, but, more specifically it was two years in the making. We initially put the house for sale in the summer of 2016, but nothing came of it, well except immense, immense frustration.

When we put it up for this summer we didn’t do it with the bright eyed optimism as we did the prior year. In fact, we remained very low key about everything and didn’t even look at houses. The year prior we found like five house we would buy, but of course, couldn’t due to ours not selling. It was probably superstition when we took a totally different approach and as my first sentence indicated, it worked.

At roughly the month and half into living in our new house we couldn’t be happier. Each girl is happy in their own room and to their credit, have done an excellent job keeping it clean. Even Mia’s room is relatively straight and doesn’t have clothes all over the place, that is a huge upset. One of the brightest spots of the new house is the fact we don’t have to share one bathroom. I don’t think Shakespeare could find the right words to describe the joy of going from one bathroom to two and half. Not sharing a bathroom with my three slob daughters (I love them dearly) has made my life exponentially better. But again giving credit where credit is due they have done a good job of keeping their bathroom pretty clean as well.

As happy as we are in the new house and how necessary as it was for us to get a bigger house the experience is also a bit bitter sweet. I moved a lot when I was younger and it turns out the house we just moved from was the longest I ever lived in any house. We lived there for 12 years and six months, and in that 12 years our family grew. Cathy, Julia, Krypto and I moved into that house and Cathy, Julia, Mia, Olivia, Shadow, Roo and I moved out.

Julia was only a year and a month when we moved in so much like Mia and Olivia, it was the only home she ever knew. I also lost my dog Krypto, who I got when I lived in an apartment with my brother, came with me when I moved back in with my parents, moved with Cathy and I into our condo and finally into the home we just left. I always promised him a fully fenced yard, which I now have but he is no longer with us. I like to think Shadow is enjoying the fenced in yard for the both of them.

We also met a lot of really good people who will become lifelong friends. The nice thing is we didn’t move too far away and can maintain those great relationships. We are also closer to my brother and his family and in a couple of weeks my Mom and oldest brother will be moving closer. Not only did we upgrade to a bigger home but now will be even closer to family.

Another plus with a bigger house is the fact that sometimes we don’t even know the girls are around. I know that doesn’t sound like the fatherliest thing to say but it is nice. Sometimes in our old house there wasn’t enough room for us to just get away from each other, it seemed at times we were right on top of each other. Now when everyone is getting on each other’s nerves they can retire to their own rooms. Well, except for Cathy, unfortunately for her she still has to share a room with me.

Father’s Day = Flag Day

If Mother’s Day is like Christmas than Father’s Day is like…..Flag Day. Let’s be honest Father’s Day just doesn’t have the cache or importance that Mother’s Day does, and really I am ok with that. If I were to disappear from my family tomorrow, it would be noticed, but my family would still be able to function at 85% efficiency. Now if my wife Cathy disappeared, the girls and I would be functioning at 20% efficiency tops. In my humble opinion Moms do deserve more recognition and accolades than Dads; I’m just saying maybe we should get an upgrade to Columbus or President’s Day level status.

This year for the third time in four years I spend my Father’s Day on a soccer field. My oldest Julia and her team the U14 Rancocas Valley United Premier were representing New Jersey in the Region I President’s Cup. They had previously won the New Jersey’s State Cup for the honor of traveling to West Virginia for the tournament. I don’t mind in the least bit spending “my day” on the soccer field for my girls. I mean nothing better than to be “fathering” on Father’s Day right? I am also the reason my daughter’s play soccer so there’s that.

The part of Father’s Day that wasn’t great was the eight plus hour (including stops) ride home. Recently, my wife was hit and her car totaled so we had to take my Ford F-150 with me doing all the driving (NSFW). I have no complaints about the truck but the Ford F-150 wasn’t exactly built to be the family truckster. ha0413-150057_1@2xThe worst part was the back seat has bench seating so my daughters where all sitting next to each other the whole ride, both to and from.

This was nothing if not a recipe for disaster, small enclosed space, three girls prone to bickering with each other and of course driving, lots and lots of driving. All in all the girls were clutch and didn’t make the ride as excruciating as I was expecting. I was expecting that they would kill each other and anything short of that would be an upset, but it was a lot better than that. Which reinforces my belief that I should always expect the very least from my daughters, so I can be pleasantly surprised.

I guess it is ironic that I celebrated Flag…Father’s Day crammed in a car with my children (and wife). Nothing like getting an overdose of your offspring on the day set aside to honor the fact you pro-created. Needless to say I didn’t feel honored, although the next day they did take me out to dinner. Ok my wife and I paid for it but they were there. The nice thing was, the seating was a little more spacious and I only had to drive like a half hour.

Dad and his four girls…..clothes shopping

I hate shopping for clothes. I have no fashion sense and usually have no idea what would look good. Many times I have to ask my wife if what I am wearing matches and usually depend on her to pick out the clothes on the rare occasion I buy them. I am so fashion inept that back in high school three of my female friends basically laid out rules on what to wear for me, what colors go with what and such. I remember checking that list many mornings before dressing for school. I went to a Catholic school mind you so my dress options were limited, but still too diverse for my fashion limitations.

But recently something has come to my attention, mostly due to Facebook. When seeing the “On this Day” posts I noticed no matter how far back it went I basically was wearing the same things I wear now. In fact, I still have the shirt that I wore in my and Cathy’s engagement photo in my rotation; that photo was taken in 2001. Throw in the fact that I was anywhere between 30 to 50 pounds heavier over the last 15 plus years and I needed a wardrobe update.

I decided to take action and buy one new shirt each pay period. That way 10 to 15 years from now I will be able to see these new clothes on Facebook’s “On this Day” posts and repeat the cycle. Last weekend we went to Kohl’s to get Julia and Mia new outfits for their National Honor Society inductions (subtle brag). It was a perfect opportunity to buy my new shirt for the pay period.

In theory the plan was impeccable, or at least so I thought. The flawed part of my plan? I had to go shopping with four other women. In fairness to my wife she did not do any shopping, it was the three little ones. Olivia didn’t have to get a new outfit for an induction but if you are getting the other two new outfits, well you’re getting the third one something.

I looked around and had two shirts found in under 10 minutes. I was able to get two $50 shirts for a total of $30, that is a savings of $70 (not so subtle brag). I was done, happy and after wondering around a bit to look at some other things, I met up the girls. At this point we had been there for twenty minutes. Olivia had found something and Mia was just wrapping up finding something, I figured we were in the home stretch, boy was I wrong.

I should have known going in the teenager would be the problem and boy was she. What she liked, Cathy nixed (as would I, most were things I don’t want my daughter wearing), what Cathy liked, Julia balked at. The whole experience was soul crushing, I had to fight the urge to just lie down in the middle of the store. I found a kindred spirit in Olivia who also found the whole shopping process just as excruciating.

I know things aren’t going to get better, I have many more devastating shopping experiences ahead of me. The hope is, at least for me, that I will be able to get out of most of these affairs. I cringe at the thought of when Mia hits the teenage years. She is already a diva, combine that with teenagerness (copyright pending) and God help us all. The positive? I will have four girls now advising me how to dress, which will be useful to a guy wearing clothes from 15 years ago.

I am the parent of a teenager

I have joined the ranks of a distinguished group, I now have a teenage child, more specifically, a teenage daughter. Last weekend Julia celebrated her 13th birthday, and although she has been displaying teenage traits for a while, it is now official. This coincided with having my suspicion confirmed that Julia knew there was no Santa Claus. Yes, overall it has been a traumatizing week.

Cathy told me that Julia had asked her how much Christmas cost. Cathy, using some quick thinking, responded that she didn’t know since Santa bought the presents. Julia’s response? “Come on Mom, how much did it cost?” Later in the week I asked her how long she knew and she told me about three years.

I have mixed emotions about her knowing “the truth.” Part of me is relieved because let’s be honest, a child can believe in Santa for too long. I’m all for the magic of Christmas and children being naïve but there is a limit to these things. Also, it is nice to have someone else in on the secret. I say put her to work, have her wrap presents, have her think of places to put the damn Elf on the Shelf.

There is sadness in the knowledge that Christmas will never be as good again for her. I like Christmas, even before I had kids, which renews the magic, I still loved the holiday. But let’s be honest, Christmas is never as good after you find out a fat guy breaks into your house in the middle of the night, leaves presents and steals some of your food. The same guy who for the other 364 days watched you while you were awake and slept.

Finding out about Santa Claus, or more specifically finally acknowledging she knew, is a small part of dealing with a teenager. She looks more like a woman and is almost has tall as my wife. Julia always thought she knew everything and it has only gotten worse with age. I think as a teenager her “know-it-allness is going to be excruciating.

For her birthday Cathy got her tickets to go see Twenty One Pilots,images

it will be her first concert.

I was 14 when I saw my first concert, Paul McCartney at Veteran Stadium. My little girl is now going to concerts. She is going with Cathy but soon, much like I did, she will be going with friends. Getting through that experience is something I am not relishing.

I know I have sleepless nights ahead of me. Every year Julia gets older I remember walking into her room when she was about eight months old. I asked her to promise me she wouldn’t get bigger because she is perfect. She kept half the deal, even though she got bigger she still is perfect. A huge pain in the ass, but still perfect.

India and Thanksgiving

First I have to thank my wife Cathy for guest blogging while I was in India on business. I had long wanted her to guest blog and the trip provide a great opportunity, and she did a fantastic job. Trust me when I say that will not be the last time Cathy takes over the blog and I hope one day to get the girls do some guest blogging. For now, though you are once again stuck with me and my ramblings.

My trip for India ironically coincided with the Thanksgiving holiday and it was very apropos (get ready for the sappy). Being away from my girls made me realize how thankful I am for them and how much I missed them. My boss, Nick, who has two girls of his own and I were talking how we couldn’t have a job that required constant travel because we couldn’t be away from our family that often. Almost the moment I left for the airport I was looking forward and imagining what coming home to them would be like.

Prior to the five full days I didn’t see them at all for this trip the most days I had ever been away from them was two full days. That happened twice, the first was a canoe trip I did with my friends, and the second was a business trip to Ohio. I also spent a day away from them when I had surgery on a bulging disc. Needless to say I don’t spend a lot of time away from my girls and I am grateful for that.

A week after being away from them was Thanksgiving and that trip was a reminder of what I am thankful for. What amazing feeling it was when I came home to see the happiness and joy on my girls faces. It was about ten minutes of pure joy and elation that made me feel great. Of course after that my girls were once again on the couch with their faces buried in their electronics. Kids are very resilient and IPhones and IPods are very attention grabbing.