Over the winter, Regina and I noticed our kids had blue faces. It certainly wasn't from the cold -- we couldn't get them to go outside -- it was the light from their tablets, glowing softly on their angelic faces. So, in an effort to get them breathing fresh air, Regina came up with Marbles. Not to play, although that would have been an improvement, but as a reward system. Essentially, the kids earned a marble for completing different chores, and each marble was worth ten minutes of screen time. For example, if Dylan went outside and shot twenty arrows, she could go inside, collect a marble, and shoot a thousand virtual arrows. Sound a little hypocritical? You bet it is, but it also worked. Sort of.
Their enthusiasm, and ours, wore off pretty quickly. The jars of marbles are still around, I know because I knock one over about once a week, but they're no longer a viable form of kid-currency. But, an amazing thing happened -- when they realized they couldn't play Minecraft (Dylan), or snap a thousand photographs of, say, your shoe (Grady), they started to drift toward their bookshelves and pretty soon they were asking for more time to read, or another trip to the library. Granted, they've always loved reading (Brag alert: Dylan leads her class in AR points by double), but now they burn through books like ISIS in a Salman Rushdie library.
Did the marbles work? Absolutely not. We're back to reminding the kids that their pets need to eat everydamnday and that, yes, they should do their homework before dinner. But the fact that the local libraries email regularly to inform us of their overdue books, and that I'll probably break a hip one day from slipping on an errant marble, is only a small problem. I'm calling Marbles, whether they horde or spend, spill or rattle around the dryer, nearly a win.