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That First Job
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My youngest son has started his first job. He is sacking groceries at a supermarket. It is the type of first many teens have—part time, minimum wage, no experience required. He is learning about responsibility—the challenge of getting to work on time, and properly dressed. He is also learning that there is a satisfaction in doing a job right, even if the job is not the stuff of dreams.

He is looking at me with more respect, too. He is gaining an appreciation for what it takes to get up every morning, go to work, and do your job—even on days you do not feel like doing it.

What is more interesting is my reaction to his job. I worry about him. I am dad. It is my job to look after my children. But I have to let go. At sixteen, he is not a child anymore. Not really.

I had a job like his, when I was that age. I worked at a fast-food restaurant. I really wanted that job, not so much for the money. It served as proof that I was becoming an adult. When you are sixteen that is important.

I worry about the distance to my son's job, even though the store is only three blocks away. The hours worry me too. He sometimes gets off at 11:00 pm. We pick him up. 

Different Now?

I rode a bicycle two miles to get to my job. At his age, on my first job, I would help clean up the restaurant after they closed at midnight, and sometimes got home at 2:00 am—on my bicycle. That distance and those hours were different though. That was then. That was me—and I knew I could do it. Except it really is not different. He will be having the same thoughts about his son and his son’s first job, thirty years from now.

The hardest thing for a parent to do is to let go. But you have to. You have not succeeded as a parent if your children are still living with you when they are in their thirties. You succeed when they go off, get their own homes and start their own families.

Letting go is a balancing act. You have to allow them to take more responsibility and give them more freedom of choice. You often have to do it faster than you feel comfortable doing so. Kids grow faster than you realize. At the same time, you have to set limits—limits that grow looser as your children demonstrate their ability to accept responsibility. My wife and I will not let my youngest work more than twenty hours a week this summer. We want him to be doing other things, too. Next year? Maybe. He will be able to do more then.

As he gains experience, he is gaining in confidence every day. He is becoming less of a child and more of a man, every day. I like that.  

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By Mark N. Lardas, copyright 2011, Mark N. Lardas, all rights reserved.  Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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