My first job was as a babysitter.
This was typical among my peers the only stark difference being most of my friends who babysat adored kids.
I did not love children.
I was fantastic with kids…for short periods of time.
I was equally as fantastic at lolling on couches and ransacking kitchens for sugary snacks after my young charges were asleep.
Since she’s been old enough to speak she’s informed everyone who would listen how she’ll have at least four children someday.
As a result, when she announced she’d applied to be a junior counselor at gymnastics camp I wasn’t surprised.
I was, however, tremendously surprised by how much she enjoyed spending 8 hour days toiling for free in the Texas heat.
She loved AND she learned.
The right job makes for good tired.
I wont sugarcoat it. After the first day as “crew member” she was shocked. She regaled me with stories about her tiny tornado campers. She marveled how loud, active and needy they were. She shared how, after her first hour working, she wasn’t certain she could endure the remaining 7. She begged for an early bedtime.
The next morning, however, she bounded out of bed eager to exhaust herself again and excited to discover what the day would hold. I was more than a little surprised. I’d anticipated complaining and dragging now that she knew what to expect. Instead she informed me how great it had felt to be so very tired and sleep so well.
I’ve always believe self-confidence is created through positive experiences. Early on in parenting I realized “everyone gets a trophy” culture didn’t increase self-esteem because nothing had been done to achieve said trophy. Still, I was amazed by how she appeared to walk taller and with more confidence even after one day of work. There were no daily ribbons or fabricated awards bestowed for a job well done, yet she didn’t need that. Spending all day tackling the new experiences and succeeding was more than enough to empower her.
Success requires personal responsibility.
The night before camp started she and I made a list of everything she needed for the next day and taped it to the fridge. The following afternoon, when I picked her up from camp, she informed me she’d forgotten a pivotal piece of her “uniform” — her bathing suit. She continued, sharing how she’d panicked, paused to take a breath, and proceeded to solve the problem she’d created.
“It was all my fault. I didn’t listen to you and check everything off as I put it into my bag.”
I was stunned. Gone was the fifth grader who would have tried to cajole me into delivering what she’d forgotten and in her place was a responsible tween. She didn’t call and ask me to bring the suit. She accepted responsibility and found her own solution.
Mistakes happen–how you handle them is what matters.
I may never know the full story here, but after day #2 she returned home bursting with tales yet focused mainly on one.
The snippet centered around the notion of how “You’re only allowed to pick up 3 and 4 year olds. That’s a rule. Even if you are able to pick up older kids, Mama, you’re definitely not allowed to.”
Also knowing her as I do I could see/hear she did not feel defensive about the situation nor had she reacted defensively when it occurred. She’d made a mistake because she didn’t know. She’d learned. She’d moved on.
Work builds connection.
As with most jobs being a camp crew member required teamwork in order to succeed. Each of the daily activities called for counselors to, in essence, act as one. Not only did they need to quickly develop a shorthand of sorts, any work with young kids in the unflagging Texas heat demands a We are all in this together! attitude. Evidence of connections she’d built with other counselors became apparent through her stories and via interactions I witnessed before and after her work-day.
As a girl who prioritizes relationships connections she created were invaluable to her.
Work is hard. Hard work pays off.
At 11 1/2 she was stunned how challenging a workday was. Unlike sporadic hours I worked as a babysitter when I was her age – – she truly got a realistic sense of what a full-day job felt like. She readily surrendered it was hard—“harder even than school.”
She also rapidly realized her hard work with the campers paid off. She received kind words from more established counselors (her language of encouargement). She learned to treasure ‘special break times‘ and lunches counselors enjoyed together sans campers.
She (& I) noticed how much she learned over the two weeks. Her patience increased. Her understanding of the importance of paying attention to every detail grew exponentially. Acquiring/strengthening these traits as a result of hard work sparked leaps in self-confidence for her.
And, to her delight, for the last 30 minutes of the very last day hard work paid off in the form of surprise ice cream sundaes.
- Do you remember your first job and any lessons you learned from it?