Brat and Bart are made up of the same four letters. But the Bart I'll tell you about was no brat. Even though Bart was no brat, he did have one very annoying habit.
Before I tell you about the habit, I'll tell you about his family.
Bart was nine-years old and he had an eleven year-old brother and an eight-year old sister. The children and their parents lived on a small farm not far from here, or there, depending on which way you are looking.
The family owned two dogs, seven cats, two horses, and thirty more chickens than they had cats. How many chickens does that make? Well, enough that they had lots of eggs anyway. They also had fourteen milk cows and a mule that just showed up one day, and stayed.
Now all of these animals needed a lot of looking after. There was always work to be done. Some of the work had to be done by the father, because he could drive the tractor and the truck. And some work had to be done by the mother, because she could not only drive the tractor and truck, but she was the only one in the family who could work the sewing machine. But most of the work on the farm could be done very well by anyone willing to do it. Anyone, including eleven-year old boys, nine-year old boys, and eight-year old girls.
The parents always tried to be fair with their children.. They very carefully allotted, more-or-less, the same amount of work to each of their children. The older boy could do some things that the younger girl couldn't do, and she could do some things that the older boy couldn't do. But Bart could do anything that either his brother or sister could do, and he could do them very well.
Now about that annoying habit. Bart never seemed to want to do anything. Whenever his mother asked him to feed the chickens, Bart would say: "Why me?". Then his mom would try to explain to him why it should be him. She'd say: "Because it's your turn." or "Because your sister did it last time." or "Because your brother is busy helping Dad milk the cows."
This never worked very well, because Bart always made out that it really wasn't his turn: that he'd fed the chickens the last time they were fed, and that he'd much rather milk the cows than feed the chickens. The argument would keep up until his mom, or his dad, would threaten Bart with losing his allowance, or time alone in his room or, even: "NO COMPUTER GAMES FOR A WEEK." Then Bart would do whatever it was that they asked him to do, and do it very well.
Bart's brother and sister often complained about having to do chores, but they never said "why me?" or made their parents threaten them. They'd do their chores willingly, but they'd never do them very well.
Neither Bart's mom, nor his dad, liked making Bart do things. They often talked to each other about how they wished that Bart would do things the first time he was asked. They were SO tired of hearing "Why me?". They talked so much about Bart's annoying habit that they hatched an idea; just like a hen hatches an egg when she sits on it for a long time. Well maybe not quite like that, but close.
Bart's parents decided that, since Bart did his chores so well, when he finally did them, that it was time that they gave him some praise. So the next time his dad wanted Bart to clean out the cow shed, and Bart said: "Why me?", Bart's dad said: "Because I know you'll get the shed so nice and clean that the cows will be very happy and give us lots of milk."
Bart couldn't argue about that, because he knew that he could do a good job in the cow shed. In fact, Bart did a great job, and the cows gave lots and lots of milk. Bart's Mom had fresh chocolate-chip cookies and hot chocolate ready for Bart when he had finished cleaning the cow shed.
From that day on, Bart's mom and dad always answered Bart's "Why me's" by telling him that they knew that no one could do a better job than he could. And it worked. It worked so well, in fact, that Bart's brother and sister soon hatched ideas of their own.
Whenever Bart's brother or sister didn't feel like doing one of their chores, they'd ask Bart to do it. Of course, he'd say: "Why me?", but they could handle that. They'd just tell him that he could do it SO much better than they could. They'd also tell him that they wanted to watch him work so that they could learn how to do their chores better.
The system worked just as well for them as it did for Bart's parents. Soon Bart was doing all the chores, and doing them very well. While he did the chores, his brother and sister watched him work, or read comic books, or played video games, or snoozed.
Bart's parents saw what was happening, but all the chores were being done so well by Bart that they hated to go back to the problems of sharing the chores among their children. For a while they fooled themselves into thinking that maybe Bart's brother and sister were really watching and learning. But they were very fair and loving parents, so they didn't stay fooled for long.
They soon started hatching another idea. An idea of what they could do to let Bart know how much they appreciated him. And it would have to be an idea that would put Bart's brother and sister back to doing their share of the work. And, hopefully, doing it very well.
Before they had their good idea hatched (even though six hens had hatched 41 chicks) Aunt Bessie came to their rescue. She grandly announced that she was taking her six-year old grandson to Disneyland and would like to take Bart, or his sister, or his brother, along to keep the lad company.
Now who do you think the parents sent along with Aunt Bessie?
That's right! Bart! And when Bart said: "Why me?" what do you think his parents said?
Well first they said that it was because they knew he would be such a great help to Aunt Bessie. Then they said that they knew he would be great company for Aunt Bessie's grandson. And, finally, they told him that he had earned a nice holiday, and a good rest. They told Bart that he had earned a big reward for doing so many important things for his family, and for doing them so very, very well.
Bart's parents didn't say that they chose Bart so that his brother and sister could get back to doing their fair share of the chores. They could have though, because Bart's parents knew that it was time to get back to being fair.
And Bart's brother and sister really did all their chores, and Bart's chores too, while he was on his holiday. And, do you know what? They did them very well. Maybe not quite as well as Bart would have done them, but a whole lot better than they had ever done them before. Maybe they had learned something while watching Bart work, or maybe they were hoping to earn a trip to Disneyland. Or maybe they did things so well because they got lots of praise from their parents. But maybe the good feeling that comes from doing a job very well was all that they needed.
Or maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with their mom's chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate?
Copyright Bill Rollans 1994 All rights reserved.
illustration by Keith Rollans (age 5)
Return to the Bill Rollans Home Page