Tuesday, December 29, 1998

My Kids Sling Hash

by Jacki Stirn (

My 17-year-old daughter, known in these parts as SilverShoes (see Family Fool post No. 52), is a trained barista and my almost 15-year-old son, Skiguy, is mostly a custodian, but they both have served food. It is important to me that my kids know where money comes from. For many parents this may be a more difficult discussion than where babies come from. Think not? Do your kids know your income?

I've had other parents say to me, "My kid's not going to sling hash. They should get a meaningful job." It's a nice sentiment but even if you are going to be an entrepreneur, it's good to get the buzz of the worker bee because you'll eventually be hiring worker bees. Meaningful jobs can be hard to come by if you're a teenager but there's still lots of learning to be had from a less-than-meaningful job.

My kids work at an independently-owned bakery/espresso bar/sandwich shop. SilverShoes started working to make her $500 car bond (see Family Fool post No. 76) and to pay for a hoped-for trip to Greece. Skiguy was encouraged to work by me (I guess I'll let you work) to keep him out of trouble over the summer. While Skiguy is one of the most frugal people on the face of the planet (who needs CDs when you have a radio?), he does have expensive tastes in toys like a full-suspension mountain bike, component stereo, primo skis, wonderful camping equipment, G3 Macintosh... you get the idea.

They were each able to get a job because the shop needed reliable workers and I was a regular customer (Living Below Your Means post No. 10). There were sacrifices on my part -- would you enjoy getting up to take your child to work at 6 a.m. on weekend mornings until they could drive? -- but I felt it was part of my job as a parent.

What have they learned?
-It's not a lot of fun to go to work at 6 a.m.
-It's a good idea to get a job with a flexible manager.
-It's fun to get paid and nice to get a cut of the tips, especially in December.
-Rich people don't necessarily have manners.
-It's good to work somewhere that closes at 2 p.m.
-It's good to have money of your own.
-You don't want to work in a coffee shop forever and going to college looks better every day.
-Everyone doesn't have a warm and fuzzy home so you're grateful for what you have, even if your mother can sometimes be a pain!
-When you work, you are treated as an equal by co-workers.

I think it's been a good learning experience for the kids. MusicMan wants to know when we'll let him work and is gunning for "Official Taster" at the coffee shop. Do our kids understand stocks and investing? Yes. Do they understand where money comes from? Definitely.

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