So, Derek's about 2 months into his first employment gig, and I'd say that overall it seems to be going fine...or, you know, as well as can be expected for a part-time High School fast food position, anyway. When he began this journey, he naturally had NO idea about what was involved, procedurally, to become a member of the Working Class. For example, Husband and I asked if he'd filled out any official-looking paperwork, or provided banking information to the manager, so he could get paid at some point. Derek gave us a blank stare and shrugged, "Um...I don't think so." Oh-kay....so we backed up a bit and inquired as to whether he even knew when--or how often--he'd be...ahem..."reaping the rewards of his labor". Again, he professed to have nary a clue. "I assume it'll happen sometime," he helpfully offered, when I sighed in exasperation. (Oh, thanks, sweetie--that's such useful information! Grrr....)
Well, it took a while, but apparently the manager did eventually get around to filing the requisite forms, because one evening, Derek came home after his shift, and waved...something...triumphantly in my direction. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be one of those waxy paper bags they put the cookies in for customers, so my first thought was that he'd brought me a treat. Alas, this was not the case, as he informed me that this was the standard delivery measure not only for baked goods, but also for...his every-other-week PAYCHECK. (Oh, fine--I guess that's also exciting....)
"Well, how much is it?" I demanded. He shook his head, "I waited to open it until I got home!" Aww, that's sweet--so we could share this momentous occasion of your very first payday. I absolutely appreciate that...now let's see it, already! He ceremonially extracted the paper and excitedly read out the total...which, while not "professional sports star money" or anything, represented a decent amount. Especially since it was a bigger chunk of dough than he'd ever been given at one time, before! I took a closer look, however, and had to burst his bubble just a little bit. "Er, honey? Let me teach you a little bit really quickly about....TAXES. You noticed that number on the paystub? Now compare it to the actual portion that you'll be keeping. Yeah, those minor things called "deductions"--they're your government's piece...sorry."
Fortunately, the realities of living in--and having to contribute to--a well-established society failed to dampen his enthusiasm for his newly acquired...wealth. I chuckled a bit at his glee...but also took a moment to reinforce that THIS was the reason we'd been so adamant that he get a job, so he could acquire his own pocket cash...that he, himself worked to earn. "You know when your friends are able to buy something they want, and they say it's because they have 'Subway money'? This is what they've been talking about!" I could see the wheels turning in his teenage brain as he slyly replied, "Yeeeaaaah, I already have enough to get season tickets (to the Carolina Courage, the local women's pro soccer team)...so now...I can QUIT!"
Uh...nooooo, son, that's not how it works (Ha!). He grinned mischievously, "I know...just thought I'd give it a shot." Hmm...nice try...moving on. The next step, of course, was to actually get the virtual moolah into his bank account, where it could actually benefit him. Since he'd never had any reason to make a deposit before, he and I took a little Life Skills Field Trip to the ATM to walk through the steps: insert card, type in PIN number, endorse check. He stopped me there, “What the heck does that mean?” I clarified, “Sign the back.” “Well, why didn’t you just say that?” Dude, you should know the lingo, just in case!
I mean, you never know when it might come in handy...such as, for instance, the very next time we attempted to use the machine, and it couldn’t read the check, because whatever electronic process had produced it had printed the numbers on top of something else, making it difficult for a non-human to decipher. We actually had to do something totally primitive—go inside the building during business hours, and talk to a teller...who just might use that kind of language, since it’s part of their daily activities, and all. Do you want to appear ignorant to the staff, or do you want to know what you’re doing, and smoothly handle your financial transactions? (Gasp! Yet another educational experience in this whole Late High School chapter of an adolescent’s life, yeah? Even though, to be perfectly honest, Derek probably couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of him…but I’d still like him to be informed...)
When we had completed the exchange and had the receipt in hand, I instructed him to look at his new available balance, just to drive the point home a little more firmly. “See how much is in there…after just one payday?” He was practically giddy when he saw the amount that first time...but of course now that he’s been at this a while he has realized that it’s not all fun and games…or incentives. One night he came home from a particularly trying shift and threw himself into a chair, groaning, “I’ve only been working a month…and I already need a vacation!”
This is equal parts amusing and ridiculous, since I’ve discovered that Derek takes it upon himself to mark his availability for shifts….“very...judiciously”. As in, not only does he note legitimate conflicts, like when we left the country for a week, or when he’s attending other events with his family...but he also chooses random days he doesn’t want to be scheduled….such as...“Saturday”. When I queried him about this he breezily explained, “I deserve a day off—it’s a weekend!” (Ay yi yi...forehead, meet palm…)
Then again, the subject did come up today in a more serious fashion, as he and I discussed--one week out from the start of the academic term--how his work hours might have to be modified, in order to make sure that his homework (which with 3 AP courses might be considerable this year) continues to get top priority. He and I share this concern, especially given what happened the other night, when the shop closed at 10, and he didn't get home until 11:30 due to some kind of "technological difficulties" that prevented him and his co-workers from completing their duties in a timely fashion. I assured him that I was totally cool with pulling the Mom Card and allowing him to tell his manager that his parents wouldn't permit him to work until closing--at least during the school week.
He seemed relieved, although--perhaps because we were having such a pleasant, candid chat--he also couldn't seem to stop himself from admitting, "I don't really WANT to work on Fridays, because it's the end of the week, and I'd rather take it easy." Then he added, musingly, "Or Saturdays...because college football." Before I had a chance to deliver a snarky comment, he hastened to add, "But I get that it's part of the whole 'growing up and taking responsibility' thing!" (Yes, THAT. And nice save, honey...)
Anyway, I suppose I’ll just let this go, since he is making enough of an effort that it actually keeps a steady stream of...well, maybe not "Benjamins", but at least some of the other notable (Ha!) presidents...rolling into his Checking account. However much he jokes about it, I know that he does, in fact, now really understand the value of having a job, and is greatly enjoying the taste of independence it offers him. And, of course, he’ll never forget these important details, since I’m here to remind him--say, whenever he uses his own debit card to purchase something online that's caught his eye. Yep, that’s me….just doing MY job! (And for the record, willing to accept my hard-earned pay...in COOKIES!)