Monday, August 30, 2010

Working Teens

Millie writes:

Every other Friday night is “Pizza and Movie” night around our house, so that's what we were doing last Friday, cozily zoned out out in the living room with our slices, watching $5 a Day. The front doorbell rings, so we pause the movie and Lance answers the door. It's a local band (yes, the whole band) that plays at street fairs and Saturday Market – they came over to ask Jack if he wants to be a backup singer.

Two weeks ago, Sassy – who has put in more hours as a volunteer at our branch library than many people who are employed there – was told by the Teen Librarian that they love her work so much, they created a part-time job for her – all she had to do was say “yes.”

Well, I'll be the first to admit that my kids get around; but though it may be unusual for employment to seek them out, it's not at all unusual for a teenager to have a job. It's a great milestone, good for the kid (they learn responsibility, budgeting and people skills – not to mention they get cash) and good for you (someone ELSE is teaching them responsibility, budgeting and people skills – not to mention giving them cash). However, like everything else, it's going to mean an adjustment for you.

In the first place, employed or not, if they're under 18 they're your responsibility. You have an obligation to know what's going on, even though you want to do it is unobtrusively as possible (for example, I'm gonna have to check out these street fairs and the people who drive the double-decker bus that transports the bands). Though it may not be apparent from their attitudes at home, teenagers can be reluctant to stand up for themselves and unscrupulous employers may take advantage of that by making them work hours or handle tasks that minors shouldn't be doing. (When I was in high school I worked as a housekeeper in a nursing home, and in retrospect I probably should have told my parents about some of the chemicals I handled and some of the diseases to which I was exposed without even gloves or a breathing mask.)

What you must NOT do is to confront your child's boss yourself, unless it's a question of the kid being in immediate physical danger. In the first place this is a humiliation from which the kid would never recover, but more importantly a part-time job is a major step in the growing-up process and your child needs to learn to handle his professional responsibilities in a professional manner. You may listen, advise and strongly recommend – but even when you're itching to march down to that kiosk and give that manager a piece of your mind, don't. Bite your tongue, sit on your slapping hand and let the kid handle his business.

Something that's been a major adjustment for me, now that EVERYONE is old enough to have their own lives, is that I must consult people before I make family plans. I had an outing all arranged for Saturday, but – sorry, Mom, the singer has band practice 'til 2, the new evening manager was out until midnight, the barista has an 11-hour shift and the junior librarian never gets up before 1 anyway. Lance and I were still on call, of course, and there was just enough overlap that we couldn't actually go DO anything . . .

I'm awfully proud of all of them, though. I suppose washing their smelly work clothes but never actually SEEING them beats an empty nest!


  1. Whew, that WOULD be an adjustment--having to schedule things around THEIR schedules. Just another step in the Great Adventure!


  2. Hmmmm, laundry, the love of my life, or an empty nest, the bane of my existence. I'll take the laundry anytime!


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