I have three daughters. And so my life is filled with bobby pins. Bobby pins everywhere. Bobby pins lying on the floor. Bobby pins lying on the arm of the couch. Bobby pins lying on the kitchen counter. Bobby pins lying on the bookcase. Bobby pins lying in my shoes.
So I would do what any parent would do; I asked my daughters to put away their booby pins when they pulled them from their hair. It seemed straight-forward enough. You take the bobby pins out of your hair and you put them wherever it is young girls keep bobby pins. A fancy bobby pin receptacle in the bathroom? I don’t know.
But for whatever reason – an inability to hear certain frequencies in my voice or an inability to use fine-tuned motor skills – they never picked them up. They never put them away.
It seemed I needed to up my game. The temptation was just to start picking them up and putting them away myself. But that would make me an enabler and we all know I’m no enabler*. For starters I’m too lazy. But also, I can’t teach them to pick after themselves if I do all the picking up after themselves.
No, what I did was I told girls that any bobby pins I found laying around I’d pick up and keep. If they wanted them back, they would have to buy them from me.
The reaction was predictably muted. I don’t think they believed me. Or, at the least, they figured it was one of those parental pronouncements that pop out in the heat of the moment and are just as quickly forgotten.
But this pronouncement would not be so quickly forgotten.
That evening I grabbed a glass jar from the kitchen and started putting all the bobby pins I found laying around the house into the jar. And it was a lot. Like hundreds after just a few days. I kept it quiet and kept the jar relatively out of sight. It wasn’t long until my girls had seemingly forgotten about the whole thing. And I certainly wasn’t talking about it.
After a couple weeks the discovery of bobby pins around the house dropped off and the girls, it appeared, had started to run low on their bobby pin reserves. Yes, that's how many bobby pins they had: enough that I could collect countless pins for two solid weeks and the girls never noticed a drop-off. Finally, my oldest – and arguably the worst offender – asked if we could run to the store to buy a package of bobby pins. It seemed she was out.
This, dear readers, was the moment I had been waiting for.
I told her we didn’t need to go to the store, that we had plenty of bobby pins. I went to my room and grabbed the jar. I came back and told her she could buy as many as she needed.
She was not impressed. And I was wholly and completely pleased with myself. She huffed a little and went back to the bathroom, saying she still had enough bobby pins to do her hair that morning.
It was pretty satisfying. But the real win was I found no more bobby pins lying around the house. The scant few that remained in the girls’ possession where now being diligently put away and reverently cared for like the precious metal they were. The girls were picking up their bobby pins.
And then it all came to a head a few weeks later.
My oldest is a busy high-schooler. She attends an early morning religion class before school each day, plays in the band, sings in the choir, runs in cross country and works most days after school. Throw in the occasional bout of teenage-girl friend-drama and sometimes life gets a little overwhelming.
It was on one of those mornings that she was running late, assignments were due, the day was packed and life seemed to be more than she could handle. And in the bathroom she couldn’t find any bobby pins.
She came and found me in the kitchen, holding a handful of her hard-earned money and said she needed bobby pins. She was near tears and told me she’d pay whatever it was, she just needed to get ready.
Yeah, that broke me. I went and got the jar of bobby pins and told her she could just keep it. I wasn’t going to make her pay. I saw a little of the stress lift and she finished getting ready**.
After that, the whole buy-back-your-bobby-pins program kind of went by the wayside. I didn’t really tease them about it anymore and the jar stays in the bathroom.
But here’s the thing, the jar stays in the bathroom because I don’t need it. The girls don’t leave their bobby pins out anymore. That’s right, in the end the plan worked because I’m a genius parent.
*I’m totally an enabler.
**I told you, I’m an enabler.