Kid needs a job

 (Photo: Haley Peters)

(Photo: Haley Peters)

Let’s face it. Summer break is no picnic for families, especially when both parents work.

Gone are the days when that last week of school ushers in some water-colored daydream of hours lounging oceanside, replaced instead with the dread of wide-open days filled with idle children.

Now parents need a spreadsheet to plot out activities and a line of credit to ensure that the kids don’t slide down a slippery slothful slope towards delinquency over the summer.

It starts with extended daycare and moves on to sitters and camps.

Then the day arrives when they’re old enough to march themselves down to town hall to get their working papers. Parents delight in a mirage of hope ahead.

Strangely that day often coincides with some variation of a conversation that ends with this:  “Don’t think you’re spending your summer sleeping till noon and then just hanging out with your friends.”

There are lessons to be learned instead – filling out applications, getting to work on time, following through with assignments, dealing with difficult people and bringing home a paycheck diminished by the tax man.

Summer jobs were a bit tricky for our teens, who came of age during the recession and in shore towns where the talent pool often included adults looking for work.

They also were indentured to high school traveling basketball teams and then college teams for long stretches of the summer, so their availability was often limited.

But having no job when they had free time?  Not an option.

One summer one of our sons kept coming up empty handed despite diligent efforts applying for positions and chasing down interviews, and it was becoming clear that he was hurtling towards a cash crisis.

This was the son who rarely asked for anything (I embarrassingly learned once when he was younger that he’d had outgrown his sneakers by two sizes), so we’d cave at times when asked for a few dollars.

But he racked up some unauthorized expenses during his time away as a college freshman, so the goodwill at the bank of mom and dad was running low.

He managed to occupy himself otherwise, spending time at a small gym nearby where he not only worked out but also lent a hand for a few hours a week.

“Did you ask Chis if he could pay you for more hours there?” we asked.

“Yes I did and no he can’t,” he answered, a man of few words.

But he kept going back, manning the front desk, rearranging the equipment, redesigning a brochure.

One Friday he came home grinning. “I’m now working for a paycheck.”

“Nice,” I answered with a smirk, knowing already that a deal had been struck.

“How about if I pay you,” my husband had asked the gym owner, “to pay my son?”

And so the summer weeks passed, in predictable fashion.

On Thursdays my husband paid the gym owner.

On Fridays the gym owner paid our son.

And on Saturdays our son paid us back a portion of what he owed for his misguided college antics, never knowing the source for his paycheck.

Call it the cycle of summer money.

Parents. We do what we have to do.

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