Yesterday my son Ben (15) got his first job. Sure, he’s mowed lawns for the neighbors; he’s done pay jobs around the house for us. But yesterday he got his first application filling out, interviewing, social security paying, away from home job.
He ran home the last block to tell us and gave me a huge hug with a face splitting grin.
He did it all himself too. He biked around the neighborhood asking for applications. He got told no more often than not (some places weren’t hiring, some don’t hire under 18, some places required spanish speaking ability). He called people to be his (good!) references. He filled out the 10 (or so) applications. He got back on his bike and delivered them all.
Of course we coached him. We told him how to dress, what to say, what not to say, that rejections weren’t personal, the responsibility you carry when someone provides a reference for you (you put their name on the line too), how to interview, how to greet someone (and did some giggle inducing role plays), how to answer questions, what questions to expect. Everything we could think of. We prepared him as best we could.
We were worried. Although he’s showed promise when working for the neighbors, around home he’d do whatever he could to get out of working. His social skills are lacking. He can be arrogant. He often is intimidated by not knowing things.
So we talked about all of that.
But Ben has shining moments. One summer was the year of “The Ben Service” where he would sing his little jingle on his way to come help you out. He did amazing work for the neighbors on their lawn. The kept having him back for 3 years. He showed flashes of insight. He could be so caring and thoughtful.
Ben’s also been one to do things in leaps and bounds.
Take a walk with me down memory lane (brrrrrrrrummmmm!)
He was 2-1/2 and still not really talking. He could say words, but he just wasn’t talking like he should have been. Finally I got feed up with it. He was pointing at the fridge and he said “Please”. I said “Do you want some milk?” He nodded his head.
“Ben, can you say milk?”
I walked away. He was really annoyed. But by the end of the week he wouldn’t shut up (and hasn’t since ha ha)
Fast forward to 6 years old and in first grade. Ben was still sucking his finger. His dad tried everything: shame, yelling, bribes… all to no avail. (brrrrrrrrummmmm!)
My girlfriend at the time and I sat Ben down to talk about the finger sucking one Friday night.
We talked about how it was a good thing; it provided comfort, it was always there for him, etc.
We talked about how it was a bad thing; kids teased him about it, his dad yelled at him, it was also going to bend his teeth out over time if he kept doing it.
Then we talked about solutions. If he decided to stop, we could give him small rocks (but not small enough to ruin the washer!) he could keep in his pocket. He could rub the stones in his pocket for comfort. He could rub the stones, think of us, and know we loved him.
We said it was his choice. He could choose to keep the comfort of sucking his finger or he could stop and use the rocks to help him transition until he could provide his own comfort from inside.
We sat him down with a mirror and a picture of his grandparents who had very straight teeth (and you could see the teeth in the picture). We set the timer for 5 minutes. He had to sit there for 5 minutes or until he made the decision, whichever was longer.
When the timer went off, he said he was going to quit. He took the stones. All weekend he sucked his finger once. He never did it again.
I’m nearly in tears with the overwhelming feelings of loss.
My little boy is grown up now.
The little baby I used to nurse and rock to sleep? Gone.
The little boy I used to read to every night? Gone.
The boy that I watched pass his first karate test? Gone.
The boy I took to work at his first shift at the coop? Gone.
The boy who used to wear my shoes even though they were a little to big? Gone. (He’s taller than I am too.)
Last night we put in our monthly shift at the coop. Ben worked with us as usual, but before where he would dawdle he hustled. Where before he would have walked by without a word, he introduced himself. Where he would have tried to tell someone how to do something he asked questions about why something was done a certain way. I had witnessed another sea change in my son. He suddenly started talking. He suddenly stopped sucking his finger. He suddently grew up. I was so proud. I was on the verge of tears.
In many ways, this loss is greater than the one I feel each time I put him on the plane to his dads. When he gets on the plane, he will come back, I will see him again. I will never hold my baby again; he will never sit on my lap as we read books.
In that baby’s place I have a young man. A young man who filled me with great pride last night.
Today is his first day. If he does good work after a few weeks he gets a raise. If he continues to be on time and does good work he gets another raise after 4 weeks. I have no doubt now that he’ll make it.
Way to go Ben!