Jewish World Review August 16, 2002 / 8 Elul, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Kids get reality paycheck | Perhaps I exaggerated when I said the greatest thrill of parenting is seeing your children gainfully employed. That is not true. The greatest thrill of parenting is seeing your children bring home paychecks.

Securing summer employment isn't as easy as it used to be. Even fast food employers have grown more demanding. They want a commitment to nights, weekends, after school hours in the fall, Christmas Day, and furthermore insist that you return any and all extra ketchup packets you have stashed in your car. Despite the odds, somehow all three of ours managed to find summer jobs. (If this were video, you could see me smiling.)

The oldest is working for an architectural firm. Basically, he's still doing what he did at age five - playing with Legos. Only now he does it using high-end computer software.

Kid no. 2 found a job assisting with activities for residents at a nursing home. She leads chair dancing, sometimes paints the ladies nails, serves coffee, and tramples the first amendment by censoring the news and reading only the happy items from the daily paper.

Kid no. 3 applied at a big discount chain store and was rejected by way of postcard 48 hours later. Two days later, when she saw we had made a purchase from the store that rejected her, she accused the entire family of disloyalty. When the suggestion arose that she should put that experience behind her and try applying elsewhere, she said, "I have already been rejected once, you want me to get rejected again?"

"Yes, dear. And again and again and again until you find something steady."

"I can't believe this. You're not worried about my self esteem?" "Not nearly as worried as we are about your college fund."

She has since found gainful employment as a baby sitter.

Seeing your children employed is a two-fold thrill. First, in the words of that great economist Milton Friedman, or maybe it was Mother Goose, you have the joy of seeing your child morph "from parasite to producer." Few things warm a parent's heart, or encourage fiscal responsibility, more.

The second thrill of having your children employed is a small but simple pleasure. It is the delight of answering the phone and saying, "I'm sorry, he's not here right now. He's working." (I'm smiling again.) Or "Try back around 5:30; she's working today." (More smiling.)

One is paid on the first and the fifteenth of each month, one is paid every other Wednesday and one is paid weekly. Not that we as the parents pay attention to such minor details. And let me just say the fact that their father walks around on their paydays mumbling, "Can you spell tuition?" is purely coincidental.

When Kid No. 2 received her first paycheck, she slapped it on the kitchen table and said, "Look at this. I made $700 but I only get to keep $460 There must be a mistake. Is that right?"

"It may not be right, but it's how it is," I said.

"I worked five days a week for two weeks and this is all I have to show for it? I'm exhausted."

"Now maybe you won't make fun of your father when he falls asleep after dinner."

"Well, it's not right and it's not fair and somebody should do something about it."

"You're absolutely right," I said. "Take on the feds, take on the state, take on the IRS. Go ahead. We're right behind you." (Still smiling.)

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman