Wednesday, July 25, 2007

From Shoveling Dirt to Scooping Ice Cream

I am, to listen to my son, sometimes a cruel taskmaster. When he works at his chores or at something I have asked him to help me with, I expect him to work, not diddle. I have encountered so many people in my life who have no work ethic and who moan and complain about how tough life is without ever making any real effort to change it, that I want my son not to be like that. He doesn't always appreciate my suggestions to work harder, faster, and with fewer breaks.

Last night, he and my wife and I were outside finishing up a mega landscaping project at our home. Zachary and I had excavated about seven cubic yards of clay over the past several days and were now filling in the space with ten cubic yards of good topsoil. My son had, in all fairness, been working hard, pushing wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of clay to be dumped at a construction site across the street and then wheelbarrows full of topsoil to the space we had excavated. Several houses down the block, a woman had been watching us work. Last night, she and her husband came over and introduced themselves.

The woman said that she had watched our efforts and that she had felt sorry for me, presumably because a geezer like me might not be capable of strenuous physical labour, and had been impressed by my son's diligence and dedication to the task. How old was Zachary, she asked. Nearly fifteen, he replied. How would he like a job, her husband asked him.

It looks like Zachary will be working in an ice cream store part time, cleaning tables, sweeping and mopping floors, washing dishes, etc., starting next month when we return from a little holiday. I'm all for it.

Too many kids have no clue about how to work. Mommy and Daddy give them everything they need, including a hefty allowance, and the kids are completely at a loss when they enter the workplace. Most are basically useless until they have picked up some experience. Some are completely useless period, and will never contribute anything of value to an employer. They expect a paycheque but don't realize that they have to contribute something of value in return.

My son doesn't have to work. I could give him everything he needs or wants, but I have never done that. Everything of value in life has effort behind it. Getting something without work or thought or planning has little or no value. Something has value only if it can be compared to the effort that produced it. So, I want my son to work. I want him to clean up messes that others have made. I want him to sweat while other teenagers sit at a booth in the ice cream store and enjoy their sundaes or milkshakes or banana splits. Then, with the money he earns he will be able to buy things and appreciate the true value of his acquisitions. Or, he will be able to save some of the money he earns and watch it grow when I help him invest it. He will get valuable life lessons.

Or, he can goof off, not do his job properly and get fired. That is the right of any employer who isn't getting value in return for wages paid. I hope my son will have learned from my wife and me that he will have to work responsibly and independently and actually earn his wage. That would make me proud.


  1. I feel like I'm getting to know your son (and you!) without even having met you. That may change one day when I'm able to make it out to your area, or perhaps if you happen to detour from your usual travels to our area.

    This is a good story though. Actions always give more information than anything else. Do a good job, others will notice, and you'll move ahead. I've discovered that myself, as in my current job (quite new, only about 4 months), I've put in a little more effort and I've already been given more responsibility, whereas at other jobs I just did the standard (or less), I went nowhere. So this is a good lesson for anyone. The more you put into something, the more you'll get out of it.

    As a side note, I love how blogs have allowed seemingly common yet interesting events in our daily lives to be broadcast to anyone who might be interested, where a mere few years ago, it wouldn't have been possible.

  2. I agree with you, Trooper. My favourite blogs are the 'slice of life' ones, where I can read about how people cope with the daily irritants and blessings that either mar or enrich their existence. The internet is indeed a marvelous thing. Who could have imagined this just several decades ago?

  3. My son "gets it", and I couldn't be prouder. I imagine yours will as well. Kids tend to do as you do, not as you say. I firmly believe your son will follow in your footsteps.

  4. I was raised pretty much as you are raising your son, the only real difference being that my folks couldn't give me the stuff anyway - we weren't well off, and in any case my dad wasn't disposed to give it to me anyway.

    I have tried to raise our kids that way and have, I think, only partially succeeded. They both can work hard when they need to, but they avoid the need to whenever they can.

  5. My kids all have a fine work ethic, and I am so proud to have raised them.

    It must require a lot of dedication to your high ideals to resist giving your son everything he wants when you are able to, so you, also, deserve a great deal of credit for the man he will doubtless grow up to be.

    A very nice story, indeed.

  6. Laurie: Thanks. You have more confidence than I have sometimes. Raising a boy who has inherited my 'stubborn' genes is a task to which I only sometimes feel suited. Let's hope for the best.

    Bob: I don't know how old your kids are, but give them time. We all 'get it,' as Laurie so nicely puts it, at different times in our development. My son gets it some of the time but by no way all of the time. By the same token, neither did I. I was (don't tell anyone!) pretty useless in some ways when I was a teenager.

    Heartsinsanfranciso: Thank you. I'm not sure how much I deserve in the way of praise... I feel bewildered much of the time, just like any parent. I feel encouraged when I see kids of relatives and friends grow up to be adults of whom their parents can be proud, and that gives me hope too.

  7. I feel it is also important to expect the best from your children.

  8. good for your son, getting that job. He'll see a lot of pretty girls at an ice cream shop.