Upon the eve of his "Class of 2020" high school graduation, my 18-year old son was well aware that he was expected to start financially contributing to "the life of Andrew" and all of the things that go along with supporting it.
He's admittedly had a nice life, more than his father and I ever had growing up. And yet, we found ourselves in that delicate balance of parenthood: How do we teach our children they are loved beyond measure, while also teaching them they are not entitled? At what age does the financial support stop, and independence begins?
For us, it was July 1st after 12th grade graduation that his weekly allowance would stop. He's known this day was coming for two years - no gas or spending money would be automatically transferred into his account every Friday, beginning July 1, 2020. This would begin the financial weening off the books, to gradually continue through college, at which time he is expected to be fully self-supportive.
He didn't seem too stressed by this, but he did flirt with the idea of working for me, or working for my husband who also owns his own business. And the answer from us was a resounding "no." Why? Because he needed a real boss, in a new and uncomfortable work environment, surrounded by people outside of his bubble of friends, who come from all different walks of life, and to whom he has to prove his worth. In doing this, he will be forced to establish his own identity independent from his family and friends.
So, he followed the lead of his friend, Kevin, and applied at UPS by the airport as a package handler. He navigated through the whole process on his own, and got the job! He makes $14/hour and sorts packages in their warehouse. He must report to his station at 7:00am, Sunday through Thursday, and he's off at noon. He even wears steel-toed boots and clunks around the house like a legit adult!
This took me back to my first job at Walt Disney World in Florida. I remember having my interview (they called it an "audition"), and got hired as a tour guide ("cast member") on the Great Movie Ride at what was then called the Disney MGM Studios. I sat in a 3-day "Disney University" orientation, and learned all about the culture, history, customs, and expectations of a Disney cast member. To this day, I still point with two fingers, never tell a client "I don't know," and reply with "my pleasure" instead of "no problem."
I have often struggled with employing interns or "first timers" because of the responsibility it takes to lay that important foundation for them. Do I really have the time to clearly lay out all of the expectations, training, and enforcement of policies right down to the nitty gritty like acceptable attire and tone in voice? And what about discipline when they make rookie mistakes?
How many of us have had that nightmare about oversleeping for a big day? Well.....Andrew completed his one-week orientation, and then last Sunday reported to his first official "day on the job" at his post. He came in my bedroom at 9:20am in an utter panic - explaining how his alarm didn't go off; he'd set 5 of them! He was supposed to be there at 7:00.
He was beside himself and had no idea who to call or how to get ahold of his supervisor (lesson #1). I told him to get dressed and go to UPS, and to explain what happened, taking full ownership of this flub-up (lesson #2). "Vow to never let it happen again and let them see how truly sorry you are. They will want to know that you know this is unacceptable." So, he did (lesson #3).
I followed him on Life360, and hit refresh about a hundred times to see if he started to drive back home after getting fired. To my surprise and relief, they allowed him to stay! He got a warning, and bought an analog clock on his way home as a back-up in case his phone alarm ever fails again (lesson #4).
He is currently still employed (three weeks and counting!), and his first job is doing exactly what it's supposed to do - teaching him the ropes of the real world, and how to fall down and get back up.
"When you lose the battle, don't lose the lesson."