How I Survived My 10 Year Old Son’s First Attempt at Entrepreneurship.
It all started one day when I got sick and tired of my 10 year old asking me for money. “Mom, can I have $10 for the school store?”. “Money doesn’t grow on trees you know!” I said (wondering when, exactly, I turned into my mother…) The asking is frequent. He wants money for this or that; DS games, Wii Games, apps for his Kindle, a cell phone… the list goes on and on. I usually meet him with one of two responses: the “if you want to buy something, then you have to earn some money and buy it yourself” line, or just “no”. Both responses, however, make me the bad guy – the stingy mother who never lets him do anything. Such is the life of a mother of an almost “tween”.
Now let’s be clear – we are not talking about things which he needs (school supplies, clothes, shoes, sports gear), as those types of things are always provided to him. It’s the other stuff – the “extras” that I am tired of constantly shelling out money for. After years of giving him the same old line each time he asks for cash, I was surprised when he came to me with a solution of his own – or at least the beginnings of one.
“I want to do something to start earning some money” he told me. “Do you think I could start mowing lawns?”. Immediately my mind jumps to him flailing around on the ground with a dismembered foot on the ground. Not good. Of course, I don’t want to crush his new-found glimmer of ambition. “Hmm… well, that’s not a bad idea, but how are you going to get to the clients? After all, you’re only 10 – that’s a long way from driving age…” “You can bring me” he said. Now, theoretically, this is not a bad idea on his part. He figures he can do the hard work an “all I have to do” is drive him where ever he needs to go. However, since I knew I would have to drag his younger brother and sister along, I had no doubt that a scenario such as this could get a little crazy.
“Well, that’s a great idea, honey, but maybe we should try to think of something you could do that would be a little more self-sufficient on your part. Can you think of anything else that might be a possibility?” After pausing for a moment, he said “How about dog walking? I could walk dogs while the owners are at work”. “Again, great idea” I said, “but what about when you are in school? And anyway, that still involves me having to drive you. What else?”. “Oh, I know! How about dog sitting? When people go away on vacation, if they don’t want to bring their dog with them or leave them at a kennel, they can bring the dog to our house and I can watch it!”.
Now, I have always been an entrepreneur at heart, dabbling in a few projects of my own here and there, and I know how awesome it feels when you come up with your first “great idea”. I could see the twinkle in his eye and hear the excitement in his voice. How could I refuse? “Ok – let’s put an ad onCraigslist and see what happens”.
One Craigslist ad and two days later, we found our first client. Ironically enough, it was a family from town. We agreed to take their small dog for 1 week while they went away on vacation. My son agreed that he would be entirely responsible for the dog – feeding, watering, walking, and cleaning up after any accidents. “How bad could it possibly be?” I thought. “OK, sounds good – we’ll take her” I told him.
The next 6 days was the ultimate test of patience and perseverance.
I knew things were bound to get tricky as within the first 15 minute of the dog being with us, she growled and snarled at me, showing off her crazy “snaggle-teeth” (as the kids called them), when I attempted to gently scoot her down the stairs. That dog actually tried to show me that SHE was the boss. “Seriously, Dog?!” I said, as I politely backed away and slipped down the stairs. Ok – she’s obviously nervous. After all, she’s in a strange house with strange people. We’ll just have to give her lots of love and win her over. (Yeah, right).
Oh, and did I fail to mention the fact that we have our own dog – and the two dogs just did NOT get along. Despite our attempts to help them gradually get acquainted, they snapped, barked and growled at each other. I mean I was convinced that if these two dogs got together, there was going to be a major dog fight. I did not want the owners to return from vacation to the news that their little rag-a-muffin had been a tasty snack. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we were simply going to have to keep the two dogs separated at all times; one upstairs, one downstairs. One inside, one outside. one in the crate, one out of the crate. Set the timer for 30 minutes, then rotate the dogs’ locations.
The little dog’s owners gave us her kennel to use, in case we needed to crate the dog for any reason. However, any time we tried to get the dog in the kennel, a barrage of growling, snarling, teeth showing, and vicious barking again ensued. When we finally did get her into the kennel (which was a miracle in and of itself, only made possible through the use of dog treat bribery) she would start barking; continuous, extended, high pitched barking. Ugh… are you kidding me? No. No I’m not.
Then, there was what we refer to as “the tripping incident”, where my 8 year old accidentally tripped over the dog. This startled the dog, making her very upset. She started growling and barking, which in turn scared my 8 year old enough for her to turn and run away from the dog, which in turn (you guessed it) made the dog chase her. Around and around in circles they went until I finally was able to pick my 8 year old up and place her on the couch – out of the dog’s way.
Needless to say, it was a very trying week – between the barking, the shuffling, and the “walking on eggshells” that we all did to keep our little canine visitor happy. However, in the end it was all totally worth it.
And here is why:
1. It reinforced my son’s sense of responsibility- he did a great job caring for the dog. I hardly had to remind him to do anything. He took it out to let it “do it’s business” everyday, he walked it, he fed it every morning and night, and made sure its water was clean. He even cleaned up after it when it had an accident in the house. I was very impressed, and proud of his stick-to-it-iveness.
2. It was great for his self esteem – he was so proud of the fact that he was in charge and really took pride in his work. He knew he was “the boss” of what was going on with the dog. He kept a good eye on things and really had a sense of accomplishment when the week was over.
3. He learned some valuable lessons about business – we talked about different ways he could advertise for free and potentially get more clients – fliers, social media, business cards. Also, we talked about the importance of treating each client uniquely, based on what their needs are (a great metaphor in both business and life!).
4. He learned the value of hard earned money – this was probably the most exciting part! When he found out he had earned $60 for the week, he was ecstatic! We agreed he was going to save half and he could put the other half towards something he wanted.
So, even though the week was very trying on my nerves (you know with all the barking, growling and snarling), I made it through. Lots of deep breathing and swearing (under my breath of course!) were the key. And, truthfully, the anticipation of my son getting his first “paycheck” was enough to keep me going, even during the craziest of barking and door scratching fits. I knew it would be worth it in the end, and let me just say that it TOTALLY was!
And believe it or not, we even said “yes!” when they asked us if we’d dog sit again.
Published in: Pets