Child No 3 (our youngest) started at her first casual job the other day. It made me realise again how fortunate we are to live in a place where these opportunities are available to our kids. The daunting aspects of a first (or new) job are all the same and probably even more so for a 14-year old but without major responsibilities the consequences are usually limited to a level manageable by someone of that age. All three our kids have part-time jobs and it’s been so good for them.
It’s such a good learning school for them to apply for a job, type up a resumé, send it off or hand it in, go for an interview, learn how to present yourself in such a situation, know the importance of always being on time, how to work in a team and earn some pocket money at the same time. (I don’t think the significance of the word “earn” can ever be overestimated, in all facets of life.) It teaches them the value of money and the things they want to buy with it, as well as to appreciate those things. It teaches them that a job pays even though you might be doing something very repetitive and boring, like Child No 1 when he worked on the broiler for hamburger patties (or “birdy broiler” – compliments of Lion King quotes – as we called it) shift after shift at his first job. It teaches them time management and balance because even though it might only be a few hours a week it still has to fit in around school, homework, sport and their family and social life. It teaches them to work under pressure, something which will stand them in good stead throughout their lives. Since most of the jobs available to the young teenagers are in retail or fast food outlets it teaches them how to smile when a grumpy customer who is having a bad day decides to take it out on them.
It also teaches them resilience and how to stand up for themselves if they happen to find themselves in a difficult situation which can happen if management isn’t great. Hopefully it teaches them to care about their job, how they do it and to want to deliver work of a high standard, but also not to care about it too much so it makes them stressed out which is definitely not necessary at this age. It’s a hard balance to find, even I struggle with this at times.
Another great part of our society is the fact that the kids can use public transport to get to and from work which teaches them independence and saves fuel, even though we’ve always fetched all three kids from work if their shifts finished any time after dark. All in all it teaches them important life skills and helps them grow up in an environment where there’s still a “soft landing”. Where it doesn’t matter too much if they make a few mistakes.
When Child No 1 was in his first job my husband would go through the drive-through when we knew No 1 was going to work at drive-through that day, and order an ice-cream just for the sake of it. Child No 2 goes busking sometimes and Ironman then catches the bus from his work to go and see her and he’ll drop some money into her guitar case (while she keeps a straight face and keeps singing pretending she doesn’t know this generous person). Now that Child No 3 is working as well he came up with a reason to go buy something at drive-through there the other day. The day she had her second shift she was told that it’s company policy that all employees have to wear name tags but work hadn’t organised hers yet, so she was given a random name tag to wear that was lying around. The really funny part though is that it wasn’t even a girl’s name – it had once belonged to someone called Peter! For the whole of her six hour shift she worked at the drive-through window wearing a name tag that says “Peter” (which would have been way more confusing for customers than if she’d worn none, but that’s just my opinion). And for some reason it’s now become acceptable for (and expected of) her to keep wearing a name tag that quite clearly doesn’t belong to her, there’s no indication of a name tag with her own name being arranged for her, so Peter’s has now become her name tag, so what can she do but graciously wear it with a smile? We’re all having a good old chuckle and if you can’t beat them Peter – join them.