Is He Too Young For A Job?

Sandor is 14 and this weekend he started his first job. He’s a busboy at a local pizza joint. Saturday and Sunday’s during the day. That’s what we agreed on.

As soon as he found out he had the job, Sandor started calling his buddies to tell them what was up.  He was so proud and excited, and so was I.

My first job was closer to home.  I ran blue prints for my dad’s architectural office on the weekends.  The blue print machine ran on ammonia and the smell was so terrible nobody could work while the blue print machine was being used.  I made  ten cents a sheet.  On a busy day I could make eight or ten dollars. Big money.

But Sandor has a real job, with strangers. He has stuff he wants to buy now, things for his dirt bike, a double base for his drum kit. Expensive stuff.  So I told him to get a job.

Folks have had all kinds of different reactions to this news. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal but I was wrong.  Several people said he’s too young, that he should be enjoying himself and have fun while he’s a kid. I agree.

The most surprising response came from his dad, Alex.  He’s generally the “hard ass” in the family. He started working five nights a week when he was fifteen and never looked back.  His first fear was Sandor would follow in his foot steps and go into the food service world.  Trust me, there’s no chance of that. Sandor knows his dad worked 70 hours a week and it nearly killed him.

Alex was one of those who said he should “enjoy his childhood.”

On his first day, he dressed carefully. Collared shirt, lots of deodorant, hair perfect.

My feeling….. he’s fourteen.  He’s not a child. Not an adult, but somewhere in between, so he needs to step up his manly duties.

Most men over fifty have heard that he’s “working” and have been really pleased, even strangers. They shook his hand, gave him the thumbs up and slapped him on the back. They seemed to be relieved that a boy in his generation wants to work, manually.  Sandor’s friends are seriously  jealous. Apparently, they wish they could work too but their parents won’t let them.

So parents, why aren’t we letting our young adults work eight hours a week, on the weekend when it doesn’t interfere with school?  Some of our kids want to work, and that should make us proud. Why don’t we let them except some responsibility?

Are we trying to baby them or are we just too lazy to drive them back and forth?

After his first six hour shift busing tables Sandor was absolutely wiped out. His legs and feet were spent. He was exhausted but soooooo happy. When I picked him up he went on and on about buckets of ice, silverware and dirty dishes.  He told me about waitresses who told him he did a good job and Hispanic ladies who bossed him around. Lord he was proud of himself and that’s a wonderful thing. He was proud of what he did, without me. And about the money he earned.

Of course child labor laws are a good thing. But maybe it’s time we stop coddling our kids.  I think we’ve gone overboard. Sandor will go to college, he will be educated.  But a job seems to give him a sense of pride and purpose, one that hanging out with his buddies, playing video games and jumping on the trampoline, doesn’t. He’s proud of himself.

Sandor is soaking in a hot tub now, hoping it will help his legs and feet. But this weekend he made $72 dollars and he’s got big plans!


Little Boy Hood and Big Foot

Yesterday I watched my ten year old son roll around on a snow covered trampoline. He was talking to his old Power Ranger action figures. I think he was pretending there were landmines in the snow. It seemed to me the Power Rangers kept stepping on explosives because he would throw them up in the air with a dramatic flair and their arms and legs would fly off.  He was playing.

It occurred to me as I watched the Power Rangers dying that “little boy hood” is just a tiny window. Around the age of three they go from babies to boys. And at age twelve they turn into “dudes”.

“Little boy hood” is when they play with fierce abandonment. They conquer worlds, create complex universes and like blowing everything up. They are different from little girls at this age because they are not so fascinated by the complicated gears of relationships and appearances. They just want to have fun, they run at trees thinking they can do a back flip, they jump on pogo sticks in the snow and crawl under porches looking for grubs and lizards.

During “little boy hood”  they still say one of my favorite phrases in the world, “Mom, come look at this!” Last night Sandor and his friend Kyle said this when they wanted to show me a you tube video of a real Big Foot in Arizona, when they figured out how to jump off the deck backwards and land cleanly on their feet and when Sandor thought he had a splinter in his foot. It turned out to be dirt.

My husband never says with sparkling excitement, “Diana come look at this.”

When my daughters say that, it’s because they want me to look at their make up or hair. But during “little boy hood” they are old enough to find amazing stuff and still young enough to want to share it with their old mom.

It only lasts for a little while, then it’s gone. So I’ve decided I’ll make an effort to jump at the opportunity when he says, “Mom come look at this!” What could I possibly be doing that’s more important? Watching CSI, doing the dishes, folding laundry? I want to share in his excitement and and discoveries while I can. And who know, maybe it’s the real Big Foot on Youtube!