The true value of having kids

   Now that spring break is over and all the kids are back in school, I have come to an inescapable conclusion – my family needs to produce more children.
   It dawned on me one afternoon, right before Easter. I looked around one of my retail stores, and there were my daughters, Kelly, 11 and Taryn, 9, busily pricing merchandise and placing it on shelves.
   Behind one of the registers, competently ringing up sales, was my niece, Laura, 12. Cleaning one of the display units was another niece, Elena, 10.
   All of them were actually contributing. And most importantly, I thought greedily, all of them were grossly underpaid.
   I was seeing the light. If I could buy a farm out in the middle of nowhere and simply grow children, in a few short years I’d be able to cut my payroll by about 80 percent.
   It wasn’t always this way. Not so long ago I considered my daughters and nieces more as business liabilities rather than assets. My wife and my sister, not wanting to pay for daycare during school breaks, would drop the kids off at my office for a few hours.
   They’d work for about three minutes or so, and then they’d get in everyone’s way. The only saving grace was that (although I had promised to pay them $1 per hour) they would invariably forget to ask me for their money when it was time to go home. Good kids.
   As the girls got older, though, their attention span increased. Unfortunately, so did their sense of greed. Not only did they work longer, but they were beginning to remember to demand payment.
   I managed to save considerably for a while longer by bartering with them. Instead of giving them cash, I offered the equivalent amount in merchandise. Of course, the little fools never realized I was exchanging their wages for the retail value of the item they wanted from the store.
   Regrettably, they continued to mature. Realizing that I was making money on the exchange, they began to demand I sell to them at the wholesale cost. I growled a little, but ultimately agreed. Still paying $1 an hour, I figured I wasn’t getting hurt too badly.
   Then came this year. Not only did they suddenly begin to contribute, but they could now work for hours on end. While that was all fine and dandy, I began to hear rumblings about raises.
    It seemed they had discovered that another cousin, Jason, whom I had nurtured and groomed over the years as a warehouse assistant (at $1 per hour, naturally) had gone and found a part-time job in a pet store that was paying him the ungodly minimum wage amount of $4.35 per hour.
    I was stunned. I had taught that 13-year-old everything he knew about an honest day’s work ad he had gone and dumped me for a measly 350 percent raise.
    "Jason’s getting $4.35 per hour," wailed the girls. "We want a raise and we want to be paid in cash, not merchandise."
    "All right, all right," I said gently, fearing rebellion. "$1.25 per hour and you guys are worth every penny."
    Ungrateful little toads. A 25 percent raise would cause whoops of joy if offered to some of my other employees. These kids seemed more apt to bind and gag me.
    After some intense negotiations, we settled on $2 per hour, a whopping 100 percent raise. Reluctantly, I threw in free room and board for my daughters. They had balked at my attempt to pay them less than their cousins.
    I followed them back onto the sales floor and watched them go about their tasks with mixed emotions. While I was delighted that I was still reaping a considerable savings by grossly underpaying them, I also knew the end was in sight.
    Now that they were becoming competent, it wouldn’t be long before they’d realize there are federal laws to protect them from opportunistic and miserly fathers and uncles like me.
    Soon I’ll be forced to put them on the payroll, pay them minimum wage and deduct taxes, rather than pay them an allowance out of my own pocket. What a shame. This window of opportunity I’m finally enjoying is likely to last only through the summer.
    Come September, I’ll probably begin working on my next crop, two sons and four other nieces and nephews, all of them nearing the exploitation age of 6 or 7.
    Meanwhile, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this summer. The girls won’t work often, but when they do I’ll get more than my money’s worth out of them.
   Yes, indeed. It’s payback time.



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