Teenagers and Hierarchy

July 27, 2011

Posted By: Shaunescy

{This post is an excerpt from last summer when I had the distinct pleasure (?) of working alongside my then 15- year old son for a conference in Big Sky, Montana.}

This was my son’s first "real" job, aside from day labor work for his dad. And I don't consider regular household chores a "job." Sexy Hubby and I have both instructed our three kids, "You live here, you eat here, and therefore you 'work' here. We don't get paid to do chores, and neither do you."  Parents the world over understand this concept, yet to a kid of this generation, “work without pay” is as foreign as a pre-digital, pre-cellular life.

Mainly, the "working" part was fine, although, my son found it nearly impossible to view me as his "working-boss" versus his "mom-boss" and attempted to push the envelope at every turn. Admittedly, there were a few stolen moments of gritted teeth and terse whispers, of which he clearly understood, mom-turned-boss was not pleased.

Thankfully, he acquiesced and did as instructed. For the most part. 

As a parent, I feel the tug-of-war over how much to attempt to "control" my son’s life versus allowing him the freedom to learn on his own.

Since this is the third (and last) chick in the nest, and we have been through parenting from A to Z with the older kids, we are trying a different approach this time. Sexy Hubby and I don’t feel the need to be "friends" with our kids, we consider that a fringe benefit of the future. Yet, we are trying to allow “Number Three” more room to learn for himself - all the while, keeping a keen eye on him. 

Sadly, we've seen the devastating effects of parents too afraid of having their kids "hate" them. Isn't that a parental rite of passage? Needless to say, it's painful to watch - for both the parents and the kid’s sake.

I digress.

At the conference last year, we were fortunate enough to have  Jim Whittaker,  the first American to summit Everest, as our guest speaker for the final night banquet. He is a very dynamic and kind man, and as our VIP, he was treated by the conference director to select a few ancillary items of his choice. And selling said items, was my son.

I was working directly across the atrium from the merchandise table, with only half an eyeball on what was happening. I saw Mr. and Mrs. Whittaker arrive, and the gentle banter between them and the conference director, and then saw the Whittaker’s move to the merchandise table. I was enveloped in my own work, but the following sequence of events about made me choke on my own tongue.

Mr. Whittaker was trying on vests and fleece jackets for size, when I heard an all too familiar voice practically yell, "Hey Jim. Jim, check this one out."

Fade to black.

I must have moved across that atrium at the speed of light and practically tackled said "employee" and into his young ear, I virtually spit, "Mr. Whittaker is our guest speaker. He is a VIP. Please do not call him Jim."

To which a very salient young man said with swagger, "Mom, Jim asked me what I thought. I was helping him find sizes."

After a few calming breaths, I realized, I was the only one to over-react. Thankfully, Mr. Whittaker was unfazed by my clueless teenager addressing him by his first name. Of which I could not have been more relieved. However, it did allow me a perfect "teachable" moment. I was able to explain the term "hierarchy," and how the higher up on the ladder you go, the more respect earned, and therefore, does not immediately equate to two equals on a first name basis.

I think my message sunk in.

At least I hope so.

Mr. Whittaker kept smiling. I kept from throwing up. And the teenager kept his summer job.

For daily blog posts, be sure to visit An Authentic Life. 

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