One of the downsides of raising kids today is that parents have turned everything and I do mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g into a competition. For example, what do you call a second grade student who enjoys kicking a soccer ball and is half way through his summer reading log challenge? In 21st century parenting parlance that child is “gifted scholar/athlete.”
Still not catching on? Okay, let’s try another one. What do you call an 8th grader who babysit her siblings for free one night while her parents went to a movie and has twice volunteered at a food bank? Well, if you’re a mom with a delusional disorder that teenager is a “humanitarian.” All right, all right I’m exaggerating. She actually said with a straight face and to my knowledge she had not been drinking that her child has “humanitarian leanings.”
Once my son graduated high school I thought I had seen the worst of it. I mean really what is there to compete over anymore? Yeah, in a couple of years it will be all about who got into what grad school and in another ten years after that I have no doubt I’ll get accosted in the produce section at grocery store because some mom wants to gush about her daughter the neurosurgeon or her son the tech startup billionaire. (Dear Lord, hear my prayers. Please, please can I be that mom.)
But really none of that is a big deal because it’s not the day-to-day trench warfare that is parenting a school age child where everything from student of the month to getting the Sunflower citizenship award is plotted and strategized more meticulously than Eisenhower planned the amphibious D-Day invasion.
All this is why I was surprised and oh so very disappointed when I was introduced to the latest parenting brag for those of us with college age kids. The summer internship and/or job.
Unbeknownst to me now your kid just can’t come back home for the summer and have your basic, no frill, minimum wage job at a fast food joint to make some much-needed cash. Oh no, that is so, dare I say, common. For your child to be on the fast track to awesome he or she must be doing some sort of interning, job shadowing, profiling or apprenticeship.
What this really means is that you, the parent, will be shelling out thousands of dollars in transportation, lodging and food this summer for your child to go to New York, D.C. San Francisco (etc) so they can “work” for free. Now, while I have no doubt “valuable” contacts are made (as in you sure paid a lot for that connection) I must share that I think this all wrong.
The bragging rights shouldn’t go to the parents with the kid doing a “summer exploratory of Capitol Hill with the assistant to the junior legislative aid of a Congressional Representative.”
Nope, the “all hail my amazing child” belongs to the parent with the kid that has a super crappy summer job.
I believe there is nothing more beneficial to a college student’s education and future success than a summer job that sucks. Every human needs to, at some point in his or her life, work in entry-level positions in the food industry, retail, or do some hard labor.
In 1983 when my husband was a student at the University of Texas he spent one entire summer painting curbs at gas stations. The average heat index was 110. To this day he still talks about that job. He says it taught him to cherish the gift that is a college education and air conditioning.
That same summer I was working in fancy pants (literally) ladies clothing store. It had air conditioning, I’ll give it that, but the boredom was soul crushing. Not only did I spend hours hanging up clothes, steaming clothes and folding clothes I also had to wait on some seriously snooty women who were slobs.
There was this one woman who frequented the store at least twice a week and as she constantly stroked her, what Texas folks would call, Barbara Bush pearls she would demand a level of service that would make HRH Queen Elizabeth blush.
This woman would try on almost every item in the store and then throw all the clothes on the floor. You could even see her standing on the clothes she had tried on from the bottom on the dressing room door. Who stands on clothes and more importantly who stands on clothes that they don’t even own? Someone needed to call this lady out. I thought there’s a story for the local paper – former Junior League president who can’t figure out how a hanger works.
(To make a long story longer she came to mother’s funeral three months ago and when I saw her all I could think of was “Ugh, there’s Mrs. Pig Pen.” P.S. She was still wearing pearls.)
What I learned from that job is that I wasn’t cut out for any kind of career that deals with the public unless it’s me tattling on them. So, I became passionate about becoming a news reporter. (It’s the grown up and socially acceptable version of tattling.)
My son currently has a summer job working at a big box store. Everyday he comes home with a new story. The saddest one to date is when he had to mop “like pretty much all day.” His father and I just smile and tell him it’s character building. He doesn’t get what we’re talking about, but he will and he’ll be a better person, employee or perhaps future CEO for it.
*Attention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon. It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read. I hope you like it! 🙂