Sunday, June 6, 2010

Waxing Responsibility

[This is a parenting blog, rather than my more typical writing one.]

Last night I was sitting in the bathtub writing and as often happens, my husband came in to annoy talk to me. Oh, wait... I started this story part way in.

FLASHBACK: My daughter is a swimmer—three water sports for our neighborhood high school (she attends a magnet with no sports, but the district lets her play with the big local), and she has been swimming competitively since she was 9. She's good. She isn't always fastest, but her stroke is strong and sure (and beautiful, but never mind). So a few years back I got a wild hair, that 'eventually' she should be a life guard in the summers. Her academics are a bit of a struggle, and she already DOES sports during the school year, so money would have to be earned summers, rather than a year round job... THIS is a job only available summers, so one of the rare ones that only having summer availability is not a disadvantage... brilliant, right? She bought in (though she really wants to be a camp counselor—but I figure camp counselors would have an advantage if they were a licensed life guard, too—HELLO? LAKE!)  Well eventually is here... next summer she can get a PAYING job.

So I emailed the Red Cross this week to find out their class times. One of them is the week BEFORE high school students are out. Are you freaking serious? Why would you DO THAT? I suppose it is most compatible with pools needing life guards from day one, but it still annoys the poo outa me. The OTHER is two weeks of evenings for FOUR HOURS A NIGHT. Six to ten for two weeks. Well, I wasn't surprised she didn't find that appealing—Hell, I didn't find it appealing. ODDLY, the grouchy hubby thought it was FINE, and was annoyed she wasn't willing, and HE said he'd give her the rides. Well rides had been my concern—normally these wild hairs that are mine, I am responsible for—completely. I didn't want to drive the 15 miles to Ypsilanti every night to pick her up, smack in the middle of my writing time (I can be selfish that way, but in my defense, I also WORK the next morning, and like the WIND DOWN to be my last thing). [/End FLASH BACK]

So I'm in the tub... and the hubby says, “ I think if she isn't willing to take that class, we should make her do some volunteering. I jump on it. She is 15. She can't have a REAL job, but she is certainly old enough to learn part of her time should be geared at productive activity. I jump on board. “Something productive, anyway—the class, volunteer, or put some effort into finding and then doing some babysitting. I agree. (Hubby and I are rarely on the same page, but we were EXACTLY there on this matter—15 is old enough to be productive.)

NEXT DIGRESSION: *cough* So last night Natalie went with her boyfriend to a place called the Neutral Zone—a local teen place where they have music sometimes—local teen bands—it is actually pretty cool—nobody over 18 is allowed in as a patron—I think it is 13 -18, but we only let her go once or twice in big groups of girls before she was in high school. Then they went to his house for a little while to finish watching a movie—she was supposed to come home at 11.

Well wouldn't you know, about 10:45, tornado sirens began. I have a confession—these used to scare the bejeezus outa me, but now I sorta love this big weather stuff. Out west... Portland, rumored for all it's rain.... drizzles and is gray like nobody's business, but they don't KNOW rain like it can rain here. The sky opens up and DUMPS—ten feet from the garage to the car and you look like you've been submerged. And... I like rain. I like weather that makes we, the human race, seem small and insignificant. I can be freaky that way. It's how I like my geography too—oceans and mountains—real mountains, not the poser mountains they have east of the Rockies. [/end DIGRESSION]

So the boyfriend lives out of town a little ways and my daughter was worried about him driving in the mess... she got first a curfew extension (you can wait until after the sirens stop:  11:15) but then I agreed to pick her up instead of making him go out in his compact car.

So on the way home, after the 'Did you have fun? How was it? What did you do?' conversation, I broached the subject.

I could not BELIEVE how indignant she could be over what seemed to ME a very reasonable requirement. “Something productive, your choice—class, work, volunteer.'

“Mom it's my last summer to spend with my friends.” (Did you SEE my eyes roll--what, are you DYING?)

“Mom, I'm just a kid!” (okay, you may want to remember THAT when you are asking for greater privileges)

“Well I'll do that class, but only if you keep up my school year allowance.” (she gets $20 a week because her school doesn't have 'lunch' so part of it is to eat lunch downtown--might have considered this one though, presented as a REQUEST rather than a demand)

“You can't make me!” (HOLY CRAP, are KIDDING ME? “It's a good thing DAD didn't hear that answer or you'd be in your ROOM all summer!”)

I guess I'm a little baffled. When I was her age, I was at my third summer (maybe fourth) of understanding I needed to earn some spending money on my OWN--babysitting 40 hours weeks--yeas EVERY DAY for MONTHS—the handouts would ONLY be for specific events, NOT 'just fun'. I got a small allowance ($5 a week in high school, but that ALSO covered my lunch). I liked the independence of earning my own money.

But my daughter has never been independent like I was, and she has always seemed significantly more entitled. I don't know where that comes from--we are relatively poor, and DON'T just hand her money.  My son has done work for neighbors--most recently hauling wood for 3 hours to earn $25.  Daughter thought he got a raw deal--that her time was worth more than that.  Hello, he has $25 he didn't have three hours ago, and that means NOTHING?

So I've been lecturing her to marry a millionaire, because clearly she doesn't have the work ethic to make it on her own.  But seriously--am I insane?  Isn't this a completely reasonable requirement?  Ah well... Maybe the YMCA will have the class at a reasonable time and the problem will be solve, but I think we definitely need to work out some way for her to understand life isn't a free ride.


Unknown said...

Oh Hart, you are speaking to one who knows this issue all too well. (You may or may not know that I'm the mother of 5 children, ages 16 to 22?)

Funny how the progression has gone with each of my children as we hit this particular barrier. When I was growing up, it used to be that the oldest ones had it the hardest and the younger ones benefited from a relaxation of rules. Now it seems that the younger ones are subject to parents' lessons learned in this new school where most kids today weirdly feel self-entitled. The less you indulge them the better.
Sounds rough I know, but for example I stopped allowances long ago. No handouts here, unless of course they are up at 7 on a Sunday morning washing the deck or looking for the next great chore or errand to do. Doesn't happen. And even when I ask them to something, it gets done and hey, guess what, they don't get paid for it. Accountability and contributing to life is their payment. So you're not crazy. It's everywhere...and I live in a land very different from yours...not a hill in sight and sunny every day!

Erica Mitchell said...

I'm in the middle of this generation and well obviously the one before me. My brother and I are 9 years apart but even with the age difference and him being sort of the "tester" child for lack of a better word we were raised fairly the same.
Neither of us got an allowance. We got money for lunch and if we starved at lunch time, well then we had extra money at the end of the week. But as soon as they caught on to that, the money (because this was an option at school) was put on credit and when it ran out they gave it right back to the school.
It wasn't that they denied us much, but we had to earn it. Both of us were expected to get summer jobs, and both of us within our senior years had part time jobs for weekends and evenings. I don't remember either of us having any issue with getting a job. Our curfew was extended as we got older and neither of us ever dared break it. Strange though I don't ever remember it being that much of an issue for either of us. We weren't model kids at all. It was just kind of common knowledge for us I guess.
However when both of us hit early 20's we went bonkers...we were actually better teens that 20-23 year olds. *Shrugs* Wish I had better input/wisdom, but I have noticed that more and more in this newer generation feels they are self entitled. My husband complains about having to break the younger soldiers all the time because they feel like they can back talk, have no sense of authority, and are more lazy than the recruits just five years ago. I dunno...

Patricia Stoltey said...

No, you're not insane. More moms and dads should be insisting their kids work or volunteer. It's a learning experience, and it builds character. This is an excellent post.

Kas said...

I'm surprised that since it's something she enjoys (swimming) that she's not more willing. I worked my ass off at the barn for hours every day in every weather for pretty much nothing but an occasional free lesson, because I loved it. And when I started volunteering at a therapeutic riding place, I was so stoked to be able to do it, because it was with horses and it made me happy.

I didn't actually work for money until my senior year in high school, and even then only the end of it, but I've worked ever since (excepting this past semester) and for me and my sister it's been a gradual transition of what our parents pay for and what we pay ourselves. We were never given allowance, but we never went without much either.

Oh, and the lifeguard cert helps with a lot of jobs, especially counselors, even if not for the pool part, but the CPR cert. So maybe if it's presented as a necessity to get the job she eventually WANTS?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So, she wants adult privileges without doing adult work?
Stick to your guns, Hart. If she doesn't learn now, she will struggle later.

Jan Morrison said...

I'm just singing along with the choir above! This is my second set of teenagers (girl 15, boy 17 tomorrow). My first set now 40 and 38 had the required ups and downs BUT nothing like this entitlement trap. When I'm really p'oed at my step-son - I call him the 'pampered prince of pinedale' (name of subdivision). I am also a therapist and see lots of kids. We are getting an international student in the fall - it helps with dough and I'm really hoping that it'll help with entitlement issues. Step-son is working at the gas station. That means either we or his mother has to pick him up (fifteen minutes down the road) at eleven at night. We're all usually asleep by then but we want to encourage him. We don't, however, want the step-dot to start work just yet because we don't know how we'd manage all the driving. Last year the son worked with his Dad - building houses - Dad liked it and so did son but I think he's going to choose the gas station when school's out because he won't start til late and he can sleep in. ARGGHH! Not only is that a dopey reason - the gas station and any retail will teach him only to be one of the gazillion kids working for minimum wage in retail. When he works for his dad he is actually learning something that could go somewhere if his plans to take over the world don't pan out! Indulged kids is one of the most pressing problems of this generation - they will not thank you for it down the line. We are only teaching them to be marshmallows with no idea of the relationship between behaviour and outcomes. OK, I'm coming down off my soap-box now. Good luck and I'll be watching this with baited breath!

Hart Johnson said...

What a great bunch of responses!

Lee-YOU do NOT look like you have 5 kids 16-22--did you find the fountain of youth? I think though, that your idea of tying the money to work, especially during summer, is a GREAT ONE--school year allowance continues ONLY IF class or volunteering PLUS certain house chores--will bring it up with the hubby tonight for thinking of WHICH, since of course MY ideas all cross chores off my own list *snort*

Erica-Yeah--I think your parents being consistent with what was NORMAL in your brother's generation helped you in the long run. My parents were actually rather shocked when I came home at 16 with the announcement I had a job (a friend was leaving a hotel as a maid and I just went in and applied, telling them I KNEW they had a spot opening)--it was a perfect job--about 25 hours summer and weekends during the school year--always done by mid afternoon so I had my evenings free to be a teen--parents would not have endorsed that, though I think it was the HOTEL piece they had more issues with--mostly it was just making beds and vacuuming, but I did find some funky aftermath.

Patricia, thank you for the sanity endorsement! I know you know it only extends to the parenting domain!

Kas--I honestly think if there was something Nat could do with animals, she might be more open--our Humane Society though, only wants permanent (rather than seasonal) volunteers, plus is 20 minutes away with no traffic, but if I'd thrown out 'dog walking' as a volunteer activity, she would have been all over it. She'd probably even clean cages in order to have 'pet the kitty' time. I think though, you also have grown up with more hardship than Nat.

Alex--never fear--even if the Tart is a softy, Mr. Tart is NOT. It will happen.

Jan, it's so interesting to hear the parenting generational differences (and very strange to realize I'm only 4 years older than your oldest, as I think of you as a wise peer). I'm really curious what you think is responsible for this entitlement. I happen to think the war generation raised kids determined to ALSO give their kids a better life, but failed to pass on the 'teach them responsibility' part, even though they themselves taught the responsibility... or something like that. But we've gotten such short attention spans anymore--as parents too, not just kids, that we don't want to do the hard work of teaching life lessons.

Your step son though--may ALSO be making a declaration of independence--not just laziness... trading the skill of building for 'doing it on his own' (maybe not, but i would have made that decision for that reason at that age)

Julie Musil said...

Ok, your post has me laughing. Well, the writing is funny, but the situation makes me worry as my oldest son is now 13 going on 25. Yikes!

Will Burke said...

Great post. I liked earning my own cash as a teen, and I hope my kids will be the same, but she isn't even one yet, so it's all ground-work now!

Marjorie said...

Like your new blog layout, Tami!

I went with a parenting rant too. It's tough and I don't even have teenagers yet! As far as I can think ahead though I agree with you. If she wants money to spend she should earn it somehow. Doesn't seem unreasonable at all.

Will Burke said...

Wanted to let you know rhat there's an award for you on my Blog.Cheers!

callieforester said...

Wow...poor girl...(you, not your daughter) Aren't teenagers such a joy? I have three myself, and one coming up on her teen years.

My oldest daughter, Caity (20) never had a problem with getting a job--but was hell on wheels from the age of fifteen.Like...horrible, mind-blowingly awful wildchild. No idea where that came from. I got to do the pregnant teen bit--and now have an adorable little grandson who is three months old. The baby seems to have changed her back into the person she was before she hit her teen years. Okay. I'm rambling and getting off point.Sorry.

I have to say though, despite her getting a job, I've seen the same sense of entitlement in Caity. No idea why--she never even got an allowance, had chores her whole life, grew up volunteering at nursing homes...who knows. It's something about this generation.

My middle daughter, Meg (19) is the same way. She FINALLY has a job that it took her three years to get and she bitches about it constantly. She is HORRIFIED at being expected to work weekends. Go figure.

Anyway, I could go on, but I won't. Just wanted to be sympathetic and say that there are others out here that understand EXACTLY what you are going through.

In other news, we're having another contest on our site. Yeah, we do that alot. lol. First prize is a $25.00 I-tunes card. All you have to do is add a lyric to the story. Hope to see you over there--just click the blog link on our site.

Good luck with your daughter!!

Isaac said...

I'm a 19 year-old college student, and besides taking summer classes at WCC, I'm looking for jobs in downtown Ann Arbor. So far, the most promising thing I've found is an opportunity to volunteer at Ten Thousand Villages. It's not a paying job, but the experience should be worth it.

I'm okay with it not paying because I'm still being productive by taking some classes, but either way it's a good idea to just take an opportunity to add some life experience. Oh, and I still have tome to hang out with my friends.

Hope your daughter finds what is right for her.

Hart Johnson said...

Callie--such GIANT challenges! Thanks for the support! (I keep trying to head over for your lyric challenge and getting waylaid... yesterday by blogger, today by meetings and banquets! ACK! I will get there! Just maybe not until tomorrow...

Issac--that sounds like a GREAT opportunity in Ann Arbor--it's great to hear from a local about something that might by a good fit--and good for you taking classes--I think ANY productivity is good, and the volunteering counts as experience, so hopefully will help with future jobs.--Good luck to you!