Okay, so at some point of this post, I will likely offend someone. But, I hope I also inspire someone.
Sydney is in her second week of working for me. She's doing general housekeeping and some gardening. She's doing good work. I don't overload her, but I do give her all the jobs that need doing, broken down into small, bite sized chunks so she doesn't spend her summer with dish pan hands. And, I pay her.
The first time I paid her, she was so excited. It wasn't a lot. But, she nearly danced to her room with her cash. She doesn't make minimum wage, but she doesn't pay taxes or benefits either, and I still cover her room and board. I explained all that when I gave her the job for the summer. Yesterday, she was complaining about her hourly wage and the First Lady happened to be in an interview on the news, where she talked about minimum wage earners going to jobs they hate, just to put food on the table. I backed that up and played it again. Real loud.
And, she complains that there have to be laws to protect her from child labor (washing dishes and mopping floors and dusting don't count as child labor...I hope. When I was a kid, they were the weekly chores.) But most of her complaining is in jest and I don't take the challenge on any of it. I just laugh or dispense good parental advice.
Every morning, she starts by making me breakfast. If she forgets, I go wake her up. That's how it is when you have a job. And, while I eat, we sit at the table, her with her cup of coffee (Jeez, I hope that's not a mistake) and me with my breakfast, and we lay out the day's tasks. Some are easy. Some are crappy jobs that I hate and don't do very often. She writes it all down on a piece of paper. She writes down the time she spends on each job and at the end of the week, we add it up and figure out her pay. When I get home, she sends me around to see her work. I don't have to go check it out to evaluate whether she did a good job. I assume she did a good job and that I don't need to check it. She's doing good work and she knows it and she's proud of it. When she had to clean the fridge the other day, she explained how she scrubbed some stains out, and we laughed about what she had to do to clean under the vegetable bins. And, I said "Looks good". She beamed.
I have to keep my jobs of "boss" and "parent" seperate because, like all teens on a job, she needs to come home and complain about the boss and say things like "I'm not doing that anymore". As her parent, I can empathize that cleaning out the space under the sink where we keep the trashcan is a crap job, but, she does get paid for it. And, she doesn't have another job, so she needs to keep the one she has. And, as her boss, I have to insist that the job can't be done without taking everything out of that cabinet. And, sometimes, I have to ask her to do something again...not fussing at her over doing a half done job, but explaining that my expectations were higher and it's okay, she can do it again tomorrow, but focus on the part she missed.
Last night, while we were doing dishes after dinner (there are still some chores I won't pay her to do) she asked me to fire her. That was pretty funny. We were laughing and having a great time. She said not to call her "housekeeping" anymore and I explained that I wanted her to know exactly what it was like for thousands of women in Austin, who get up every morning and go to underchallenging jobs, where they are underpaid for the work they do, mostly because they are undereducated. Most of them didn't get the chances that Syd gets, and she chooses to do the minimum in school, studying just to pass the test and doing her best not to embrace the material. What she is experiencing this summer is the extreme end of what can happen if she chooses to be undereducated.
She pretended not to listen and near the end of my speech, she was trying to speak louder than me, calling me a racist (okay, I kind of deserve that one for calling her Lupe (pronounced in Texas as Loo-pay) after a badly treated Maid in a local play from a few years ago (i.e. telling Rob, "don't worry about it. I'll get Loo-pay to do it tomorrow")), but she was also listening. And, she's learning. And, she's showing off the things she's learned over the years that she's been with us (believe me, when she got here, that girl didn't know clean from anything). And, she's got pride in her work. And, we saw how she guarded over her wages when we were on vacation last week, stretching her pennies until Mr. Lincoln squealed.
And, I'm proud of her. She's really growing up. And, most of the time, she's fun to be with, even if she does still make me a little crazy and I have to pretend to be listening when she's gone on for 15 minutes about her hair.
Every day, I'm amazed at where we started and where we are. There were a lot of bad days. We were making a person out of a lump and that's hard work. And, unless something terrible happens between now and then, I can see myself being proud to send her out into the workforce. Maybe this little lesson about taking pride in her work will carry over into her school work, too.
This morning, I saw a news segment about parental stress. People studied said they had stressful jobs and enjoyed being at home and relaxed. But, when their chemical levels were checked (I think it was cortisol levels), the blood chemicals indicated they were more stressed at home. The reporter speculated that it was because parents want to get it right at home and trying to make sure they do is stressful. I think it's because we know what we're doing at work. We've been educated and trained to do our jobs. At home, there is no manual or step by step instructions on how to do the job, and a mistake could affect a child for a lifetime.
I've spent a lot of time, wondering if we are doing the right things with Sydney. The answer is always the same. When I look at a single day, we make a boatload of mistakes. But, when I look at my daughter overall, I see that we get a shipload of stuff right.
Have a good Wednesday. I'm still unpacking from vacation. I haven't downloaded pictures. I just got caught up reading blogs in a marathon that didn't leave time to comment. Slowly, but steadily, I'm getting caught up.