The Gift That Doesn’t Quite Give

Last week Kate very proudly gave me a birthday gift that she had made herself. She had created coupons with magic markers that I could use to get her to do things around the house. There was a whole stack of them, with all the things I’m regularly trying to get Kate to do: clean the living room, shut off the lights, put dirty dishes in the sink, etc. While she was, as my friend Mitch astutely pointed out, only offering to do things she should be doing anyway, I nonetheless enjoyed the gift and thought it was a pretty clever.

Yesterday, I was surveying the destruction that is our living room, which is Kate’s central play area and thus almost always a shambles. “I know,” I thought, “I’ll use one of Kate’s coupons. I bet she’ll be pleased that I remembered them.” So I go through the pile and find the one that says “Clean the Living Room” and I give it to Kate. She looks consternated but accepts it.

A few minutes later she’s looking at the calendar in the kitchen and asks me if today is Father’s Day. I told her that it was indeed and that her dad would probably appreciate a phone call. She dashes off to the living room but doesn’t call her dad. Instead, a couple of minutes later she appears again and says, “Oh, Chris, I forgot to tell you about the special condition of my coupons.” She hands me back the coupon I gave her, on which she has just scrawled “Not Good Until After Father’s Day” on the reverse side.

Ah, Kate, the littlest rules lawyer. I wonder what she’ll come up with now that Father’s Day has passed.

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