Teens at work

I was 14 years old when my mom sent me off from my home in Central California to stay for a summer with my aunt in Hinckley, Minn.

The trip was intended to ease me into a new move, which included changing high schools. 

I spent my summer canoeing on the local lake, experiencing my first thunderstorms and tasting my first brats from the grill.

The understanding was that I would also get my first job. 

I ended up working the drive-thru window at Hardee’s. 

First jobs

It wasn’t that bad. 

While the dark-brown polyester shirt and slacks weren’t totally up my fashion alley, I got to talk to all kinds of people, usually on the road to their summer cabins.

I made new friends at work and had my own money to spend when I was out with them.

I enjoyed a delightful new freedom: I didn’t have to ask if it was OK to have ice cream or money for a movie. I could make such decisions myself. 

My husband also had his first job at 14.

It wasn’t an illustrious one. His dad knew the owner of the local dump.

This meant his first summer as a money maker was spent separating cans and other recyclables out of people’s black trash bags. (Obviously, the advent of the recycling bin was a good thing.)

With both of us starting our first jobs as young teens, it was pretty much a no-brainer for us to ask our son, at 15, to find a part-time summer job. 

We left what it was up to him. The only caveat we had was that it would be a place he could bike to if he worked on a day when the Mom Taxi was busy. 

Leaving it to him

He ended up being a runner at a local restaurant. His charm got him hired on the spot. 

He spent his summer working a couple four-hour shifts per week — a perfect amount of time with his summer rugby, football and SAT-tutoring schedule. 

Truth be told, I’ve always had a hard time keeping my worried self away from all of his stuff.

This includes — but isn’t limited to — checking school grading system, keeping track of his extra-curricular schedule and looking to see if he’s put his laundry away.

But I decided — from the beginning — that his job would be his deal. 

I vowed to stay out of it. 

Time, money management

Not to sound too surprised, but I must admit he did a great job!

I didn’t fill out his application. I didn’t sit through his interview.

I didn’t manage his weekly schedule and how things would fit in with the scrimmages and matches that came up for sports.

He told me when he needed to leave the house.

I also didn’t tell him how to manage his money.

All on his own, he decided to put every paycheck into his savings and used his tip money for his social expenses.  

While he was working, he still could have asked me for money. But instead he made decisions to economize what activities he did with his friends. 

And I never had to tell him: It’s time for work. He was the one downstairs, all showered, telling me to get into the car. 

Growing up

I feel as though I’m watching him transform from a boy into a man right before my eyes. 

Could he be this grown up already?

Of course — becasue I’m learning to let myself let go a bit — I don’t know all of the details.

I’m sure there were days he didn’t do everything right at work. 

But he’s hanging in there for sure.

As I reflect on his growth over the past few months — and his folded laundry still piled on his bean bag chair from three days ago — I can see he maybe isn’t “all grown up” yet.

But he’s on his way.


Jennifer Wizbowski lives in Excelsior with her husband, and daughter and son, ages 13 and 15. Send comments, questions and story ideas to jwizbowski@mnparent.com.