Last week, I had the distinct pleasure (?) of working alongside my 15 year old son. My bosses were kind enough to offer him a paying gig for a week at the Wilderness Medicine Conference in Big Sky, Montana.
This was the first “real” job said 15 year old has had, aside from odd day labor work for his dad. I don’t consider regular household chores a “job.” Sexy Hubby and I have both instructed our three kids, “You live here, you eat here, therefore you ‘work’ here. We don’t get paid to do it, and neither do you.” The millions of parents the world over, understand this concept, yet to a kid of “this generation,” work without pay is as foreign as a pre-digital, pre-cellular life.
Mainly, the “working” part was fine, although, my son found it nearly impossible to view me as his “working-boss” versus his “mom-boss” and attempted to push the envelope at every turn. Admittedly, there were a few stolen moments of gritted teeth and terse whispers, of which he clearly understood, mom-turned-boss was not pleased. Thankfully, he acquiesced and did as instructed.
Perhaps it’s not entirely my teen’s fault. In this digital age, where everything is uploadable and downloadable and information literally at your finger tips – there is no such thing as delayed gratification. Kids no longer play hide-n-seek with their neighbors, but rather Call Of Duty with kids around the nation – and all connected via the Internet. Why wait for anything anymore?
I believe that parents of Gen XYZ’ers feel the pinch over how much to attempt to “control” their our kids versus allowing them the “freedom to express themselves” and learn on their own. Since this is the third and last chick in the nest, and we have been through parenting from A to Z with the other two, we are trying a little different approach this time. Although, never have Sexy Hubby and I felt the need to be “friends” with our kids, we consider that a fringe benefit of the future. We are trying to allow Number Three more room to learn for himself, while keeping a close eye on him. Sadly, we’ve seen the devastating effects of parents too afraid of having their kids “hate” them (isn’t that a parental right of passage?) yet, it’s painful to watch – for both the parents and the kids.
Another item of note, since delayed gratification is practically non-existent, kids also have little tolerance for authority, or respect for “elders.” They fail to see the value of starting at the bottom and working their way up. Why can’t they just apply for the job, and the next day become CEO?
At our conference, we were fortunate enough to have Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Everest, as our guest speaker for the final night banquet. He is a very dynamic and kind man, and as our VIP, he was treated by our conference director to select a few Wilderness Medicine “schwag” items of his choice. And selling said “schwag” was my 15 year old hired helper.
I was working directly across the atrium from the merchandise table, and only had half an eyeball on what was happening over yonder. I saw Mr. and Mrs. Whittaker arrive, and the gentle banter between them and our director, and saw them move over to the table. I was enveloped in my own work, but it was the following sequence of events that about made me choke on my own tongue.
Mr. Whittaker was trying on vests and fleece jackets for size, when I heard an all too familiar voice practically yell, “Hey Jim. Jim, check this one out” – fade to black.
I must have moved across that atrium at the speed of light, and practically tackled said “employee” and into his young ear, I virtually spit, “Mr. Whittaker is our guest speaker. He is a VIP. Please do not call him Jim.”
To which a very salient young man said with swagger, “Mom, Jim asked me what I thought. I was helping him find sizes.”
After a few calming breaths, I realized, I was the only one to over-react. Thankfully, Mr. Whittaker was unfazed by my clueless teenager addressing him by his first name. Of which I could not have been more relieved. However, it did allow me a perfect “teachable” moment. I was able to explain the term “hierarchy,” and how the higher up on the ladder you go, the more respect earned, and therefore, does not immediately equate to two equals on a first name basis.
Mr. Whittaker kept smiling. I kept from throwing up. And the teenager kept his job for another day.
Not sure my nerves can handle the “mom-boss” role.(Proudly, all photos are mine, taken on site at Big Sky Resort.)