Back in the day when I was kid, in the dark ages when you had to trek 10 miles to school uphill in the snow and rain… (My kids seem to think I’m that old!), kids worked almost as soon as they were able to. In my case, I had my first real job at the young age of 13 working for a family friend in their local pharmacy (and had work responsibilities that would be a complete no no by today’s laws and standards, but things weren’t what they are today back then!). It was an easy job, but nonetheless, I had a job, responsibility, and began earning money at a very young age. My parents taught me the value of hard work and earning an honest living. There was no laziness in the household that I grew up in with a father as Executive Vice President of the hometown bank, and a mother who was a teacher and a woman full of an enormous amount of energy! My parents both worked hard and earned every dime they made. And when they weren’t at work, they still worked hard. We owned a small apartment complex and there was no lack of chores to be done to keep it up. And my mom, well, the woman couldn’t, and still can’t, hardly sit still! I can tell you that she rarely ever sat down to watch television.
All this hard work certainly rubbed off on me. I have never been one that anyone could call lazy. I guess I’m sort of like my mom, but probably not quite as extreme. I do enjoy sitting down after the kids go to bed to watch some mindless television after a busy day! My parents instilled the values of hard work and responsibility, giving my brother and I both chores to do. And when we were kids, video games and technology were just on the horizon, nothing like they are today. We played outside, made up games, rode our bikes. My how times have changed.
I get so frustrated trying to figure out how to deal with all of the technology in our kids lives now. Part of it is a parenting fail on my part. With a busy life and three kids, sometimes I attempt to implement rules and then I’m not always good at following through with them. Sigh. I know, I have to be better, but now my oldest is 13, and ALL he wants to do is play video games. It’s hard for me to understand when I never was a video game player. It’s like pulling teeth to get him off the XBox and do anything else, especially go outside. Don’t get me wrong, he loves sports, and plays on club basketball and soccer teams. However, when he isn’t at practice or a game, he doesn’t seem to have any desire to put effort into practicing and working on ball handling and foot skills so he can continue to get better. There doesn’t seem to be much drive for anything else. And that really concerns me. While some people have successful jobs in the technology industry, they are few and far between.
While I have the kids do certain chores, this is also something I know that I have not succeeded in with parenting. I tend to want to just do things myself, get them done quicker and the way I want them done, rather than have the kids do them and take more time and effort. Yeah, I know. My husband has a favorite saying “To do too much is to do too little.” And I know it is so true. I’m working on having them do more chores, but it’s kind of hard to let go!
Don’t get me wrong. I really can’t complain. Garrett is by no means a problem child. He is not a trouble maker, he has never once been sent to the principal’s office, he is not defiant, he does very well in school. He just really loves to play video games.
All this being said, I am not a lazy person. I am busy busy constantly. I rarely sit down to enjoy myself and relax. But somehow along the way, I feel that I have failed as a parent in teaching my 13 and 10-year olds the value of work ethic and responsibility. While they see me involved in every aspect of our daily lives, and in every house project along side my husband, they see that I am a hard worker. I am not afraid to pick up a tool to help on a project, to cut down brush, to plant landscaping, to paint. But I feel that I have failed to instill that value in them. Clearly I have done too much for too many years.
But this year we have somewhat of a milestone. My 13-year old son decided on his own that he wanted to join the “work force”. At 12 years old children can work as a soccer referee if parents sign a work release. Heck yeah! I will absolutely support that request! Anything to get him involved and off the video games! He attended 16 hours of training in one weekend, passed the test, and voila. He’s now an official US Soccer Referee! But that was just the first step. He was very proud of himself for passing the test, as he should be.
Now came the hard part though. The night before he was schedule to referee his first set of games, he started getting a little nervous. He asked if he had to go. Of course I said yes, that this was something he wanted to do and had committed to the games for the weekend. (Not to mention the cost involved including $75 for a ref uniform and equipment and $65 for the training class.) We got there and he seemed a little nervous, to be expected. You see, Garrett is just like me. He’s always been more sensitive, emotional, and anxious. At times it can be very challenging, he doesn’t want to ever step out of his comfort zone. The first game he was pretty timid in his handling of calls and his flag. But after the main referee talked to him and helped him a little, he quickly came out of his shell, had quick call responses, and much better movements with his flag. This was a huge thing for him. I quickly realized that this “job” was going to do so much more for Garrett than just provide a paycheck or help instill a value of work ethic. This job is going to give him necessary skills for life. It is going to force him to step out of his comfort zone and talk to adults and people he doesn’t know. It is going to force him to be sure about decisions and voice those decisions promptly. It is going to put him in an uncomfortable spot sometimes when parents on the side lines don’t agree with calls and hassle the assistant referees. It is going to teach him that he CAN do things he doesn’t think he can. It is going to give him some much needed responsibility. And of course, it is going to keep him off of video games for a little while each weekend. I fully believe that this first “job” is going to be a huge stepping stone for Garrett. When he is on the field in his referee uniform, he is all business. He takes it very seriously, even when parents on the sidelines are hassling him.
I have to say, I am very proud of him for deciding on his own this is something he wanted to do. He is typically pretty timid. I am proud of him for stepping out of his comfort zone, and for taking on this responsibility. And seriously. There aren’t many jobs where kids, especially this age, can do something they enjoy, and get paid really well for the time they put in! So, we are trying to teach him young about the value of hard work, and with that, the value of each dollar earned. Both of my older children are great about putting money in their savings accounts and not just spending it quickly. I hope that this experience is just the stepping stone for instilling these values.