Sunday, March 19, 2006

I'm Not This Kind of Parent, Either

A while back I wrote about navigating the fine line between parenting and interference while watching 4 year old Anna trying to ride her tricycle down the slide.

I was myself calculating exactly how long I could wait before dashing out to catch her. She eventually chose to push the trike down and then slide down after it, but she did solve her own problem.
I flashed back to this scene this morning after reading about a new trend: parents accompanying their grown adult children to job interviews.

These parents are accompanying their 20-something year old kids on job interviews, listening in on phone calls, even calling prospective managers directly.

General Electric made an offer to one recruit last fall, only to get a call the next day from the recruit's mother trying to negotiate an increase in pay, says Steve Canale, manager of recruiting and staffing services. GE didn't rescind the offer, but ''we didn't give in to Mom'' either, Mr. Canale says.

Shelagh and Liz have worked as babysitters since they were about 12. Of course Richard and I kept an eye on who they were babysitting for and how they were going to get home. We made sure that they had an adult to call if they needed it. We also made sure that once they committed to a job they did the job, even if something more fun came up. As they got older, we expected them to negotiate for themselves, and they did.

Shelagh's first "real" summer job was working housekeeping at the Whaleback Inn. Richard and I both argued against this job, but Shelagh was convinced that doing physical labor must be easier than working with one's brain and she wanted to take it easy for the summer. After two weeks she wanted to quit, but we more or less required her to stick it out for the summer. She had made a commitment. Summer is short and it is too busy to waste time replacing employees. She worked until the middle of August when her wrist got sore and the doctor told her to take two weeks off. She learned to finish things, and how to clean a bathroom really fast.

Her boss at Enerdyne is an old friend of mine. Nevertheless, Shelagh was on her own when she called Pat the next spring and told her that Enerdyne was where she wanted to work that summer.

Shelagh is working right now in a work-study position with America Reads. She drives to Vetal Elementary in Detroit twice a week and tutors 2nd and 3rd graders in reading. Lately she sounds like she is in the "this isn't so much fun anymore" phase, but she will finish because it is her job, not mine.

I did suggest that job to her, after hearing that America Reads was one of the highest paying work study jobs and observing how much she was missing kids while she was living in Ann Arbor. I don't even accompany her to the doctor anymore; I can't imagine accompanying her to a job interview.

The Chicago Sun-Times article claims that employers are adjusting to parents' participation in the job search. I find this hard to believe. Many parents of high school kids seem hell-bent on insulating their kids from the consequences of their actions. They call the principal, hire the lawyer, pay off the credit cards. Why would an employer want to hire someone who expects to be bailed out if he makes any mistakes?

More to the point, I think I would consider myself to have failed as a parent if I had raised kids who could not handle a job search on their own. What's next, arranged marriages?

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