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September 3, 2011

Summer Lessons

by Anne Paddock
My daughter had her first job this summer working five days a week from 9:30 – 5:00 at a museum.  At first, she was excited about the prospect of working and earning money but the honeymoon was over by the second week when she realized there weren’t many young people at the museum. In fact, she came home one day and sadly told me that the people she worked with were so old that their kid’s kids had kids – meaning many of her co-workers were great-grandparents. 

Assigned to various exhibits throughout the day, she saw firsthand how unruly some children can be (we’ve all been there) and would come home and tell me horror stories about siblings pouncing on each other (she is an only child), kids running wild without parental supervision (really!), but also of sweet children who would come back throughout the summer and remember her which truly touched her. 
She also told me the funny story about a family that came to the museum one day.  The grandmother was from Mexico and only spoke Spanish and so my daughter spoke Spanish when addressing her. The grandson clearly surprised, turned to my daughter and said “you speak Mexican?”  And, then there was the time she was assigned to help kids make small boats and she accidentally broke one which left a child in tears. She learned that we all unwittingly can make others sad.

My daughter also learned about different lifestyles this summer.  One of her co-workers was an elderly man who only worked weekends at the museum.  He told my daughter that helived about an hour away with his wife during the week and on weekends, he lived locally with his girlfriend.  My daughter came home and said “Mom, he’s married and has a girlfriend” – clearly disappointed in his character. When he flirted with my daughter later in the summer, she told him not to ever speak to her that way again and moved on.  My first reaction was to go and rip the guy apart but I held back because she handled the situation well on her own. My daughter is going to have a lot of these experiences as she goes through life and she is learning how to deal with people who display inappropriate behavior.

Boring summer jobs are an opportunity to learn what you don’t want to do with your life and my daughter has never been more motivated to find something interesting for next summer.  I remind her that she earned enough money to buy a new phone, a super mega i-pod that can hold a zillion songs, and bank a lot of money.  She also learned how to balance a checkbook and grasp that we all pay taxes (well, most of us). Finally, she learned to give back. When she wrote out a check to the local theater – a non-profit organization – I realized that she learned to give back. The theater means a lot to all of us and without community support, it wouldn’t exist.

So, as the end of summer approaches and she finishes her last week working at the museum, my daughter counts the days until school begins…she can’t wait.  School lessons with kids her age will be infinitely more interesting but I’m grateful for the lessons she learned this past summer.

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