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Summer Jobs -- the Next Generation

What all the cooks wear

“Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.”  ~Al Bernstein

June equals freedom, amiright? There is something so deliciously freeing about having a reprieve from the school schedule. Especially for parents. No more exams, projects, lunches, carpools. No more texts, e-mails and phone calls from school. Ours used to send a Sunday night hat trick, completely filling my voice mail box. Every. Damn. Week. 

I breathed a giant sigh of relief as I deleted the last one. 


And now we’re well into the madness of summer jobs. Of making sure schedules are known, uniforms are clean, and some semblance of dinner is ready at whatever odd time they’re home from work and ready to eat (which seems like every hour on the hour). 

Summer jobs make an interesting story, don’t they? I’d rather read that than anyone’s actual resume. I had a dear friend who asked everyone she hired about their college summer experiences and refused to hire anyone who didn’t work as a waiter/waitress at some point in their life. Wise girl.

And she had a killer staff. 

Here’s the second generation’s run so far including the things that made me say: “Wait. What?”

From the Boy Man corner:

Cutco Knife Salesman. Yep. For real. I vehemently tried to dissuade him from this idea. Fairly certain I yelled in earnest about how he was NEVER going to make any money, it was a total pyramid scheme and the worst idea ever.

I refused to give him contact info for any of my friends, and he refused to ask his potential customers to “list 10 people who might be interested” or use the script they gave him.  

His sales pitch was “I don’t really care if you buy anything, I get paid if you just meet with me!”

I said “wait. What?” both times he sold one of the $3,000 full mac daddy sets. Low pressure sales works people. 

*Most lucrative summer to date. But, his manager did not take him on the “tropical award trip” even though he qualified. A couple of blonde girls went in his place. 

“Isn’t that discrimination, mom?” 

Yes, yes it is.

Cook at Buffalo Wild Wings. By cook I mean he dropped frozen food into vats of hot oil. 

He had the choice of cook or waiter and chose the kitchen job because they could eat a free meal every day, but the wait staff could not. Somehow he thought that translated to more money. Sigh. 

About a week in he was complaining his feet were killing him. I said, “yeah, standing on your feet all day can really bother you if you’re not used to it” then asked what shoes he was wearing. 


Wait, what?  “Loafers? In the kitchen?”

“Uh-huh. We have to wear black shoes and black pants.”

Again, wait. What? “You don’t have black pants, what pants are you wearing?” 

“I grabbed a pair of dad’s.” Raised eyebrow from his dad who was not missing a pair of pants. “What do they look like?”

Teenage sigh and eye roll followed by “you know, just regular black pants”. 

“Do they have a shiny stripe down the side?”

“Uh, yeah. How’d you know?”  

Tuxedo pants.

He was wearing his dad’s wool tuxedo pants to work. IN THE KITCHEN AT BUFFALO WILD WINGS. For weeks.

Face meet palm.  “Aren’t they kind of hot?”

“Oh yeah, I sweat my a#s off in them. And the dishwashers call me Fancy Pants.”

*I miss Cutco.

Also I told the boy man if he ever gets married, his dad is wearing those pants to the wedding.

Landscape Company Whose Name I Forget. Drove a dump truck on the reg. What kind of company lets an 18-year-old drive a dump truck? The kind that doesn’t stay in business. They also hand wrote a bible verse in red ink on his paycheck envelope each week.

“Uh, mom is this normal?” 

Nope. Not at all. 

Chauffeur.  Shuttled kids to and from sports practices and camps for a friend of a friend (who I didn’t know at the time). Sometime the next year I was telling boy man stories and poking fun at him. That mom was there, sat up straight and said (in a very defensive tone) “I’m sorry, why are you talking about our Keegan?” Wait. What? “Your Keegan? He’s my Keegan.” I loved her for having my boy man’s back. 

Almost Pest Control Employee.  *Indeed is not always your friend. He answered “no” to the following questions: “Are you afraid of heights? Are you afraid of snakes and/or spiders?” Wait, What? He’d live in a ranch house if he could and is terrified of not having his feet planted firmly on the ground at all times. His Godfather’s recount of seeing a rattlesnake on a camping trip with him: “before I finished saying rattles…. your boy climbed me like a tree and stood on top of my head.” Cooler heads prevailed and he took a landscaping job instead. 

Paramount Builders. Provides estimates for things like new siding, gutters, windows, roofs, etc. He is learning TONS and is now spending summer #2 in their employ. Hit him up if your RVA home needs some work. 

My girl’s summer experience list is shorter and she fought me hard about what to put on the resume she needed to apply for her current job. My input:

“Responsible, friendly, detail-oriented customer service specialist able to multi-task with ease. Self-motivated fast learner with a strong work ethic and positive attitude.” 

Her response “It sounds like I’m bragging. Don’t put any of that.” Me: “without it there’s a whole lot of white space. And I’m also putting your GPA.” She groaned. I added all of it,  and she did get the job. Sometimes mamas know best. 

Country Club Server. That’s great experience no matter who you are. Her first “real job” and the place where she accidentally gave the wrong social security number. “I feel so grown, I filled out paperwork and opened a bank account. I memorized my social security number xxx-xx-1236.” “Wait what? That’s not your social security number.”

We had some ‘splaining to do at the bank and with her new employer. Good lesson in attention to detail and error owning and the smoothie/milkshake making experience led to her current gig. 

Summer Camp Assistant. Also great experience no matter who you are. This particular one was a dance camp for kids with special needs. Even better experience and a huge lesson in gratitude. 

I'll have what she's having

Maker of milkshakes extraordinaire and latte artist in training. She is ca-ray-zee busy there, but learning a lot and saving a lot for college. Success!

There are days (lots of them) when I wish they could still have an extended full summer vacation…nothing but languid stretches of time, but I think it’s important they have work experiences and learn all the lessons to be had there. And there have been many. 

Most of their experiences have been funny. The boy man had to learn a song/dance for BWW that still slays us, and my girl has been asked more than once to recap a middle school date in her ice cream shop (bonus tip if she takes photos).  But there have been dark moments too. Moments when they are so bone tired and in need of a break that the tears come hard and fast. The tears of overwhelmed, weary souls who need a warm shower, a good meal and a long rest. 

There have been mistakes made and jobs lost that led to debilitating confidence doubting. They’ve learned to work with a wide gamut of personalities and how to think fast and problem solve on their own. Hustle. Teamwork. Flexibility. Competence. Think of the top in demand soft skills: communication, problem solving, leadership, time management, teamwork, empathy. Check, check, check, check, and check. 

And they’re still getting summer vacations. Beach trips abound and a graduation trip to Belize is on the horizon. And maybe, just maybe the down time is that much sweeter as a balance to their busy work lives. I hope so. 

But I’m figuring it all out as I go. This is my first time raising teenagers and I know I’m making mistakes. And I’m still working on my own soft skills, especially time management. 

June came to a maddeningly fast close, and now I want July to linger. August too. In about a month and a half, I’ll send my oldest to his last college year and my youngest to her first,  and face the unknown territory of the empty nest. 

That unknown territory is daunting, so I’m trying to prepare (input welcome). For all of the high school parents facing the unknown territory of college planning and feeling daunted, we can help

SAT prep can be so much easier to fold into a summer schedule (classes start July 29th)…even if they have a summer job, and we kind of hope they do.  

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