Teenagers and Casual Jobs

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.

The name tag

The name tag

A Washboard and a Banjo

There I was, thinking I was fairly knowledgeable on the topic of musical instruments, having studied music all through my school career, playing some myself and having played in an orchestra for a few years, but you learn something new every day.

When we’re all together in the car the kids usually attempt to negotiate which music we should listen to but since Ironman is usually the driver he claims the right to choose the music, which I generally don’t mind unless Dr Hook’s “Sylvia’s Mother” gets repeated for the seventeenth time in a row at which point intervention is required. On long trips the kids have conceded defeat in the music department and listen to their own with earphones but on shorter trips if I’m driving I’ll often get requests for certain music (usually if they don’t like what I’m listening to) and, depending on the mood I’m in I’ll either let them change the music or I might say that I prefer to keep listening to whatever had been playing. On one such day when I was listening to “The Best of Creedence Clearwater Revival” – one of my favourites – Child No 3 piped up: “This is such bogan music” and when I, very surprised, laughed and asked her why she called it that, she replied that it sounded like “a washboard and a banjo”.

I could imagine why she would say “banjo”, but “washboard”? That olden-day board that was used to hand wash clothes on? For the life of me I couldn’t hear it. Try as I might, my brain just wouldn’t match my visualisation of an olden-day clothes-washing board and the sounds I was hearing. I brushed the comment off and didn’t give it too much thought until the following time we were listening to CCR and she sighed and said again: “This really sounds like a washboard and a banjo”. By this stage I was quite intrigued although a bit dumbfounded because I just couldn’t hear that clothes-washing board until eventually I decided I’d better find out why she’d called it that and tried the method my generation passed school without – Google – and learnt that “washboards” are also musical (percussion) instruments. Well what do you know, I’ve learnt something new. I wasn’t going to concede anything on the “bogan” part though – I must be a true bogan at heart then, I said to her.

A Washboard

A Washboard

Music is such a personal thing and tastes are as varied as are people, I realised again with the CCR episode. What appeals to one might not appeal to another. I grew up in a home where we listened to a great deal of classical music and I like a very broad range of music. My kids don’t all share my love of classical music and my husband only on the very odd occasion but my playlist includes anything from Mozart to Van Morrison and Coldplay to Queen and evidently, some bogan music to top it off. The kids have asked me on more than one occasion what my favourite song is but I have many and can’t choose only one. Music lovers all understand how it has the power to move, bring people together, lift spirits, relax, let you be creative, make happy, inspire, motivate (all the music-listening exercisers out there can vouch for that), and it equally has the ability to make us feel melancholy, nostalgic or sad. I read somewhere once that “music is what emotions sound like” and I thought it such a brilliant analogy. Anyone who plays music in one form or another, or sings, will understand the power of expression it gives, whether it’s solo or in a group. Some of my musical highlight memories are of times doing just that. Whilst being “inside” the music that’s being produced it’s impossible not to feel moved or lifted. I have the greatest admiration for the genius of musical masterminds – writing and creating music from nothing is something I’ll never be able to do.

I’m very fortunate that one of my children, No 2, shares the same love of music and she’s taken the bold step to go busking (with a proper busking licence) in the city and she’s made some handy pocket money that way, singing and playing her guitar. She just doesn’t want any of us to go and watch but dad ignores that and sometimes surprises her as he walks up, stops and drops some money in her case. Me, I’ll just keep tickling the ivories (preferably when no-one is listening), and happily listening to my “bogan” and other music.