2012年5月3日木曜日

child labour (again)

I’ve got the neighbours talking again.

It started out innocently enough.

Meg came home from the first week of third grade and said they’d been learning about work and chores and jobs and while she had chores (keeping the over-large country-style genkan tidy and her desk a workable flat surface) she wanted a job. Work that she could get paid for. The next day she came home with some suggestions. Kanon and Rio and Rie get paid for cleaning the bath. Kensuke gets paid for doing his homework. What did I think about these ideas?

I thought not.

Doing your homework is an agreement between you and your teacher. I won’t be paying you to do it.

Daddy cleans the bath for free. It’s not economically rational for me to pay you to do it.

Suggestion two was that I pay her for the jobs she already does. Her chores.

Again, no.

Suggestion three- I could pay her to cook dinner each night. Yeah, right. Paying an 8 year old to cook our dinner? Pay me more like it!

With an 8 year old now stroppy that all her brilliant ideas were being shot down I said I would think of something and get back to her.

I (mis?)remembered something a high-flying businesswoman friend told me- when deciding whether you want to do a job or pay for someone else to do it for you, you should work out your own hourly worth (easy enough for me- I get paid by the hour) and work out what you would need to pay someone else to do it for you and… ahhhh…. It’s been a while since I had coffee with W but I think it went something like that anyway….

Some pondering later I had it.

It’s Spring.

The weeds are out in fullforce.

My neighbours don’t even remotely share my commitment to chemical-free gardening. They have been out there for the last month with petrol-powered backpacks full of noxious nasties obliterating all that dares to grow without being invited.

Their gardens?

Barren.

Brown.

Clear and orderly.

Green only where it was intended to be.

Mine?

Less so.

Much, much less so.

The worst perpetrator is the humble dandelion. They look so sweet but spread like… well- weeds. They spread from seed and also the tiniest scrap of root. They grow in soil and gravel and mud and clay and everything in between.

I quite like dandelions and usually let them flower and only dig them up when the white seed heads develop. This really doesn’t please my neighbours. I have had countless offers of some ‘medicine’ for my garden.

And so I came up with a plan.

So, my brilliant idea was I would pay the girls (because anything Meg wants to do inevitably Amy has to do, too) 100 yen a bag to pick dandelions. I gave them weeding tips and explained bouncily that the more of each plant they could pick the quicker they would fill their bags and the sooner they would get their money! (and the less chance of it regrowing)

It didn’t take long for the daddy-led union to push the price up to 105 yen a bag- you can’t buy anything at Daiso with 100 yen and there’s nothing like instant shopping gratification for worker morale but other than that, the system is working a treat.

Three days in and the entire veggie garden was dandelion free for the bargain price of 735 yen. That is money very well spent as far as I’m concerned!

The problems started day four.

Having run out of dandelions in the secluded backyard veggie garden the girls moved to the carpark and verge. And that’s where the neighbours started noticing…

There have been two reactions so far and they pretty much split down generational lines. Typical conversation with a passing neighbourhood Obaachan:

‘Araa! Aren’t you a good girl!’

‘Mmmm. I’m helping mummy. I’m getting 105 yen when I fill this bag!’

‘Ehh?’

‘Mmmm! Mummy said when I fill this bag with dandelions she’ll give me 105 yen! I did two bags already so I got 210 yen!’

‘Ehhh?! That’s a lot of money neee!’ And they walk away smiling and shaking their heads in disbelief at the spendthrift ways of foreign women.

Conversation with a younger woman:

‘Araaa! What are you doing??’

‘I’m helping mummy. I’m getting 105 yen when I fill this bag!’

‘Eeeee? Fill the bag? With weeds?

‘Mmmm! Mummy said when I fill this bag with dandelions she’ll give me 105 yen! I did two bags already so I got 210 yen!’

‘Ehhh?’ That’s a hard job, isn’t it?’

And they walk away puzzled and shaking their heads in disbelief at the hard life of the children of foreign women.

Today they finished all the dandelions in the front yard as well.

My garden has never looked so dandelion-free, so conformist!

They’ve moved on to my co-farmer’s field.

A whole new patch of dandelions.

A whole new slew of neighbours to get talking.

And still the best 105 yen I’ve spent in a very long time!

Hard at work in my gardening hat:


5 件のコメント:

Jo Tomooka さんのコメント...

I can remember being paid to pick dandelions from my grandparents lawn. Only I'm pretty sure it had more to do with the fact that they wanted us out of their hair rather than really needing their dandelions removed!

thefukases さんのコメント...

So there's precedent! Feeling better already. :)

Gina さんのコメント...

It's a win win situation if you ask me! ; ) The girls get extra pocket money and you get dandelion removal. : )

thefukases さんのコメント...

Exactly, right? And it's an untapped market- we're never going to run out of dandelions!

Xana さんのコメント...

Do they do sugina, crab grass, and black clover, too? Send them our way!