Mamma Bear blues
And so it came to pass that she was eager to earn her own money. No campaigning this year for fancy family holidays with retail delights and serious tan-basking under the Californian sun. Europe? Nej, non and nein! She wanted to spend her summer earning hard cash to enhance her mid-teen lifestyle because luxury accessories, lunches and lattes alas don’t grow on trees. I hasten to add that school meals are free in Sweden, but local eateries and coffee shops are, like, way cooler. Duh.
In our defence, we have always provided our children with what were probably above-average allowances. Plus extras. With no arguing. Although we did have an 8-year old who, when deep in thought and asked what she was thinking about, replied:
‘I’m thinking of raising my allowance!’
It was so dang adorable she damn near pulled it off, but no. Each new school year brought an automatic rise in line with their elevated status and needs; funds which were promptly blown on the latest craze until they gradually learned the value of money and spending power.
And there we were. With a 16-year-old who has connected the dots between education and future income, and who was now chomping at the bit of financial independence; the pride of her parents who were smugly elated at having managed to raise a responsible child.
Then reality kicked us in the ass.
Finding a summer job at 16 is hard. Applications for summer jobs were despatched to a multitude of chains. Most recipients ignored her, which I find unacceptable. These kids deserve a standard reply at the very least. She was called for a collective interview where a batch of 8 hopeful kids (800 applied for 60 positions) tried to show their sunniest sides while out-competing the other 7 nice kids in their bid to get to the next round. She came home happy and hopeful. And was knocked back without explanation.
‘I think,’ she guessed sadly, ‘it was because I have nothing on my CV. Some of the others had worked before. But how do I get something on my CV when I can’t get my foot in a door?’
‘How indeed?’ I thought as I mopped up her disappointment with a lil retail therapy and a chai latte.
There was no point telling her the company was crazy and should have taken her on. I could and did, however, gently tell her that I was surprised she didn’t get through to the next round. And no, a rejection does not mean she sucks. Every single one of us has been turned down for a job we’ve set our hearts on. That’s life. The way the cookie crumbles. We have coined a whole host of expressions in every language for not getting what we want because it happens to us all. She doesn’t suck but she does have to suck it up and keep trying.
I probably sounded tougher than I felt. Because I am her mother.
And for the past 16 years I have kissed her better and smoothed her path. Now, for the first time in our mutual lives, there was nothing her father or I could do to help beyond ask around our own social and business networks whether anyone had an opening. It made my Mamma Bear heart bleed to see her so despondent and sad. To watch her enthusiasm for working wane to the point of despair as she slowly realised that there was a real risk her hot summer income plans would run out into the stone cold sand.
I think it was a lesson for both of us: she’s slowly leaving the nest and I have to let her go and take her own chances in life.
And she’s learning life isn’t always easy or fair. And sometimes it all comes down to a little luck.
Which is exactly what happened.
And last weekend she started her first job at a restaurant chain in the city centre.
She’s beyond thrilled, and I’m…
Still Mamma Bear.
I’m so happy for her and so proud. And so deeply grateful to the company who has given her a first chance to enhance her CV.
But. But. But.
I hope they treat her well. Hope they feed her enthusiasm for earning her own crust. Hope they trust her with a little responsibility and nurture her confidence.
Hope they send home the same decent kid we sent out into the world.
A little wiser. A little more experienced.
And a little more independent of Mamma Bear.
For her sake. And probably mine.
And I hope companies who receive applications from 16-year-olds have the heart to reply. They are, after all, our hope for the future.