Despite the fact that the school year has ended for our kids, I started my normal morning routine this week on autopilot — scrambling eggs, fluffing laundry, mopping the kitchen floor, and microwaving the same cup of coffee three times.
I darted out to the base commissary at about ten, in desperate need of paper towels and lunchmeat, completely forgetting that the kids were still upstairs slobbering into their pillows. It wasn’t until I sunk my teeth into a leftover leg of chicken to quell a pang of hunger at 11:45, that I remembered.
“Do you realize that it is almost noon?!” I blasted across the rumpled bed containing my 19-year-old son. His hairy leg was hiked over a pile of dirty clothes tangled in his comforter. The floor was littered with headphones, magazines, discarded school papers, dropped pretzels and empty soda cans.
“Huh …. wha?” he said as the brain under his crazy hair tried to process the scene. While he smacked his lips and stretched, I ranted.
“Have you followed up on those job applications yet? Well, Mister, if you’re dreaming of lounging around the house for the next three months, not earning any spending money for college next year, you’ve got another thing coming!”
After making the rounds to each of our three children’s rooms, I stormed downstairs, grumbling to myself, “Why are kids today so daggone lazy? Sleeping into the afternoon, no sense of responsibility! That sort of thing was not allowed in my day! Hrmph!”
While stuffing the washer with cold darks, I thought of my summers as a teen. My father had brainwashed me into believing that, if I did not work over the summer, the planet might implode. I had to make money, and a lot of it, to ensure my financial survival over the next year of school.
I cut three acres of grass with a tractor for $20 bucks a week. I sold garden vegetables on the side of the road. I did office work. I painted houses. I bar tended at a golf club. I worked at a bank. And one stressful summer, I took a job as a traveling salesperson for my father’s chemical company even though I knew nothing about the products or how they worked.
I had very little time to lay out, go to the drive-in theater, or hang out at the mall — all the things we did in small towns in the 80s — but I always made enough spending money to last me through the next school year.
I dreamt of a summer job waitressing at the beach. Living in a seaside shack with other waitresses, not saving much money but having the time of our lives. I thought the beach job could be a life-changing experience, turning me into one of those cool, mature, sun-kissed girls with long flowy skirts and dangly earrings shaped like dolphin tails. Who cares about the money … I could transform my life.
But my father’s warnings always prevailed. I certainly didn’t want the Earth to implode, so I never got that dream beach job. I wondered, should I allow my kids to follow their dreams, or insist that they get to work?
I set the washer for permanent press and gathered my semi-conscious teens in the kitchen under the guise of pancakes.
“Hey guys, listen,” I cajoled, “maybe I over-reacted. You can lounge around the house and make money for school, because there are plenty of things you can do here for me! I’ll give you twenty whole bucks each week to scrub the toilets and sinks, but don’t forget to pull those gooey hair clogs out of the drains. And there’s always the basement to be cleaned out. Just watch for those fuzzy wolf spiders, they love to jump right in your hair. Oh, and I was thinking that all the garbage cans could use a good scrubbing because they smell like rotten meat….”
I went on for another twenty minutes or so, while the kids stared like does in the headlights.
My prediction: the Earth will remain intact, because they’ll have summer jobs within a week.