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I have hired my daughter to be my personal trainer and I believe it just may be a stroke of genius on my part. I desperately needed more exercise time that I could rely on during the week. The pounds I put on during the holidays weren’t going anywhere and my body was starting to declare its disapproval through cranky/achy mutterings in my knees and shoulders. My daughter wants to save up money to buy the Lego Millennium Falcon. (Han Solo’s ship from Star Wars, for those who might not know.) This big ticket item costs a whopping 138 dollars if we buy it at a Lego store. So getting an extra five dollars each week to be my trainer makes saving such a major sum somewhat less daunting.

We are into week three of this new deal and it has been working like this: she needs to make sure I get some kind of workout session on the weekend and once during the week. What I envisioned was me trotting along after her while she rollerbladed or we went hiking, and this may yet happen. But more often she is supervising me in mat exercises, using a set of cards I have, offering diagrams of Pilates exercises and giving me sample poses if I have trouble getting it. Or we dance for twenty minutes to the new Let’s Dance Wii game we bought as part of this fitness initiative. (Yes, part of my hidden agenda is to get her moving more too.) Another time, she got credit for cooperatively playing with her cousins in the child care room of my sister’s gym while I got to work out. I felt this should count and she, of course, agreed.  To me the bottom line is am I getting more exercise. In the previous several months my workout time always seemed to fall through the cracks and now, for these last couple of weeks at least, it hasn’t so that’s very good. I am starting to feel better already and have been pulled back from the brink of these-pants-don’t fit-anymore! no return. Hence, I am very busy feeling pleased with myself even if I am, in essence, providing the cash for her Millenium Falcon very slowly – she is earning it and also getting a definite kick out of the opportunity to order me around.

Another deal that we worked out under the auspices of the Millennium Falcon incentive program is that we will give her an extra dollar in her allowance in a particular week if she is generally more helpful, doing a few above-and-beyond chores around the house without complaint. We have not really tied the allowance to chores directly but say it’s a reflection of her taking part in the needs of the household, so this bumping up if extra things are done might mar with this concept a little but we are also side-stepping the nickel and dime-ing (“Empty the dishwasher? How much is it worth to ya?”) that we know we could expect if we didn’t make it clear that there is no price tag set on individual chores. And these ‘extra’ chores are not so bad. They cover new ground that she seems to be ready for and that seem to help satisfy her craving for added independence.

The bonus chores she is most readily embracing are the ones that happen in the kitchen. Last night it was her third time making the rice for our dinner and she asked me to not be in the kitchen when she set up the rice cooker because she could do it all by herself. And she did. The other activity she has really embraced is making us a baked good once a week. Week one she made chocolate chip cookie bars. She banished me from the kitchen and was very excited to do it all on her own, though she called me in several times to make sure things looked right and of course I pulled down things from high shelves though she kept trying to shoo me out of there. Week two, she and a friend made a layer cake. I had already bought a box mix to have on hand to make it easier for them to take it on. They couldn’t really handle the complexity of putting together the frosting so I jumped in and did that but the girls frosted the cake quite well, laughing and asking me repeatedly how much of everything they were going to get to lick after their lunch. This week she made a Prince of Wales Pie because we had company coming over for dinner. Yes, I did help on that one, doing the stirring over the stove period for the filling, but she’s taking a good measure of pride in producing these desserts.

And isn’t this a sustainable microeconomic arrangement? She makes the occasional fresh baked good and then helps me work the after-effects of eating them off my middle. I may want to keep up this plan even after she’s brought the rebel ship home. I’m hoping she will too. Some might argue that baking cookies and cake isn’t the most sensible alternative to sitting on the couch playing the Wii for as long as we’ll allow her when her homework’s all finished. But I say something that gets her up and off the couch and doing something and acquiring a life skill is better than honing those virtual skills a la Mario and Luigi.

To leave you with one last picture of my burgeoning baker/trainer, we recently had a little trouble fitting in my shorter during-the-week workout in between her homework and other things, so we wound up doing our pseudo-Pilates exercise session while I had a loaf of banana bread in the oven and soon before I would need to start cooking dinner.  The oven timer buzzed and I said I’d need to stop, mid-set, to at least get the loaf out of the oven. My daughter held up her hand and, as my trainer, bade me continue my exercising. She would pull out the banana bread that I had baked and do the toothpick test. From my vantage point of the living room floor I watched her speed over to the gadget drawer to pull out the toothpicks she’d learned to use the week before with her cake project. “It came out clean!” she reported. I finished doing my exercise there on the mat and concluded that, yes, sometimes the system does work.