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My Son’s First Job Doesn’t Involve Me. And I Couldn’t Be Happier

My son is fiercely independent. 

On the second day of kindergarten, just a week after his fifth birthday, he wouldn’t even let me walk him to the playground. I questioned if he was sure about where to line up. He replied, “Yes. And if I get confused, I’ll look for kids in my class. And if I can’t find them, I’ll ask a teacher.” 

Five years later, when he set off for a two-week sleep-away camp, he positively flourished.

And by seventh grade, he insisted on cycling the two miles to school (by himself, of course). 

So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when, at 14, my young teenager wanted to start applying for jobs. Aside from mowing lawns, I wasn’t thrilled about my eighth grader working in such an official capacity, so I set a benchmark for his grades and even made him complete a school-sponsored activity before he started interviewing. 

It took a while to find a company willing to hire someone so young, but he eventually got a lead through word-of-mouth. And even though the restaurant manager was at first hesitant about my son’s age, he called with a job offer just minutes after my teen dropped off his application, resume and work permit forms. (“I’ve never had a teenager show me a resume before!” the manager said.)

The Value of Work 

In the last year and a half, I’ve learned that everything they say about your teen getting a job is true: Yes, he’s learned the value of money and the sting of taxes. Yes, he can pay for things himself. He’s gained a lot of job skills and even more people skills. 

But you know the best part about my son’s first job? It’s something all his own. Mom and Dad have zero involvement. Zilch.

It’s a stark contrast from his other activities. I’ve personally known all my children’s coaches and even have their numbers saved in my phone. Doesn’t everyone?

I’ve met my kids’ teachers at open houses and parent conferences, and even get occasional emails or texts via the Remind app.

Even with that sleep-away camp, I filled out the paperwork, completed the packing checklist, toured the camp, met the counselors, paid the fees and sent care packages.

A Different World

It’s a different world from when I was a kid, and there was much more running amok back then. Goofing off with our friends. Biking all over town. Cruising the neighborhood until the streetlights went on. Plus, we didn’t even know our grades until the report cards were mailed! What a contrast to our kids who’ve had every playdate planned by their moms, every movement tracked by parent-monitored surveillance software, while every single assignment grade blips a notification to the adults at home. 

But with my teenager’s job, there’s none of that. I don’t have any idea what his boss even looks like. I only know his managers’ names because he talks about them.

While I’m the one to call the school office if he’s sick, he calls into work himself if he needs to take off. He has that number programmed in his phone… not me.

There’s no online grade portal or parent conferences. There’s no banquet or parent sub-committees. 

I only know he’s done a good job because he tells me about new his responsibilities and wage increases. If there’s an issue with a customer or coworker, it’s his to deal with and his alone. And any consequences fall squarely on his shoulders.

A Teen’s First Job: A Taste of Adult Life

In a time when our kids get so little autonomy, my son’s first job has become his first foray into living as a soon-to-be-adult in the big wide world. And while there are certainly ups and downs, overall, the experience has paid him dividends. 

I’ve seen that my son, someone who’s always craved independence, who struggles in school and questions every rule in existence, has learned to thrive on his own in the workplace. 

Self-confidence? A sense of pride? Check and check!

And you know what makes his success even sweeter? I had nothing to do with it. 

Though I sure am glad I get to witness it.

When not worrying about her teenagers, Jacqueline Miller is writing about them. Her recent work appears in Parenting Insider and on her website. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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