Child Labor ... Of the First World Kind ..

I may have mentioned that our maid is gone back to the Philippines for five weeks.  Which has meant some serious scheduling and coordination challenges in the Gypsy household.  Particularly since this is probably the worst possible time of the year for someone to be maidless in the Middle East.

The deceivingly sweet instigator of weekend woes ...

The deceivingly sweet instigator of weekend woes ...

Friends back in Canada will read this and think 'whoop dee doo, welcome to the real world Princess'.  But friends back in the real world probably have child care arrangements in place, whether a family member, a summer camp, or a trusted 14-year-old happy to earn some extra dosh babysitting for the month.  

Here in the Middle East, we have no family nearby to help keep an eye on Kiddo for the month.  Summer camps have mostly shut down or only run half-days given that most kids have accompanied their parents on an escape from the Qatar summer heat.  And that means that any potential 14-year-old sitters have also left for the month.

Had we known about Tita L's desire to go home earlier, we would have likely had solid arrangements in place.  However, when we tried to use foresight back in March this year by asking her when she'd like to go home, she said she didn't want to go back this year.  Somewhere around July 20th, she changed her mind.  Which left us scrambling to buy a last-minute ticket and find part-time help to keep an eye on Kiddo while we're at work.

Luckily, we were able to find someone; I go pick her up every weekday morning, and Smilin' Vic brings her back every evening after work.  It's not ideal, but it works.  We don't expect her to do much but keep an eye on Kiddo and do some very basic housework.

To keep things running smoothly, Smilin' Vic, Kiddo and I have committed to certain tasks.  They're tasks that we're normally meant to do, but that Tita L. will step in to get done when we're not quite on the ball.  Silly things, like make the bed as soon as we get up, put out the empty water bottles for weekly delivery, and water the plants.

To help keep Kiddo's routine on track and her days fairly full, we wrote out a weekly schedule that includes a list of daily tasks that must get done before Smilin' Vic and I get home from work.  We wrestled with the idea of attaching a prize to successful completion of tasks, given that these are everyday things that SHOULD be getting done, but in the end, in the interest of accomplishment, we promised her a dress and shoes of her choice for a wedding we'll be attending in Canada in October.  Provided she complete EVERY task, EVERY day.

Not too harsh; it's not like we've got her milking the cows or baking bread every day or anything ...

Not too harsh; it's not like we've got her milking the cows or baking bread every day or anything ...

Kiddo loves lists, so she attacked the tasks with fervour on day 1.  Day 2 took the whole day to get through.  By the end of week 1, the schedule had become nothing more than an annoyance.  Guilt got the best of Kiddo on the last day of the week; she called me at work to admit that even though she'd checked off ''clean kitty litter'' the previous day, she hadn't actually done it.  She assured me that her deceptiveness had kept her from sleeping properly, and that even though it meant she probably wouldn't get the dress and shoes, she just couldn't live with the lie.

Being the quick thinker that I am, and not wanting to completely kill her motivation or divest her of the hope of a brand new fancy frock, I told her that Smilin' Vic had actually noticed that the kitty litter hadn't been cleaned (we hadn't actually noticed), but had agreed that she had 24 hours to come clean and admit to her untruths.  Which she had.  So no penalty.  But no more chances.  (I know; I'm good.)

So this morning, Friday, the first day of the weekend in the Middle East, we noticed that our little tiger cat had been particularly messy going about her business:

A fairly unwelcome sight early on a weekend morning ...

A fairly unwelcome sight early on a weekend morning ...

We called Kiddo down, and told her to make sure to sweep up the mess and scoop out the kitty clumps.  We were completely unprepared for the stomping feet, pounding fists and teeth gnashing that our request prompted.  Both Smilin' Vic and I watched in silence, mouths slightly agape, as our normally gentle child erupted into a fit of angry tears.

''I can't believe this!  I can't believe you'd make me do this!  It's the weekend.  You're seriously making me work on the weekend?  I can't believe it!  You're not even giving me one day off from the grossest job in the world!  I'm just a kid.''

Smilin' Vic and I let her finish the tirade before actually bursting into peals of laughter.  This only aggravated Kiddo's already fragile state.  She stomped up the stairs in a volley of tears, mumbling something under her breath about 'life being unfair' and how she couldn't believe 'parents would laugh at their own kid'.

We let her fester in her downtroddenness for a few minutes before marching her back down to her task.  We took a minute to share with her the philosophy behind her obligations:  the cat is hers - the poo is the cat's - hence the poo is hers (and hers to clean).  And since poo doesn't take weekends off, neither would she.

Child labour of the 1st world kind ...

Child labour of the 1st world kind ...

It's days like these when I realise how totally spoiled we've all become ...

The perpetrator of the crime looks on shamelessly as the poor little rich girl slaves away, disposing of all evidence.

The perpetrator of the crime looks on shamelessly as the poor little rich girl slaves away, disposing of all evidence.