“The party is over,” I announced to my sixteen-year-old son at the beginning of the summer. “It’s time for you to get a job.”
Chris responded without hesitation. “I’m willing to work, but I’m not going to waste time flipping burgers in some fast food joint. My time is valuable and I’m not going to waste a minute of it doing something that isn’t worthwhile.”
I swallowed the sarcastic comeback that was on the tip of my tongue and replaced it with a question. “What kind of job do you think you’d like to get?”
“I want to be a forest ranger,” he proclaimed with the confidence of a teenager unencumbered by adult cynicism.
I knew that desirable jobs for teens are hard to come by. So, I began to brace myself for the disappointment that both Chris and I would experience when his fantasy job failed to materialize.
Meanwhile, undaunted by what I thought was a realistic assessment of the situation, Chris submitted a ton of job applications and followed up on each one with a phone call. His perseverance paid off when some unsuspecting personnel manager ventured, ever so tentatively, “You’re younger than the minimum age requirement for a ranger, but we might be able to work you into our program…”
Chris saw the hole in the fence and scrambled through it.
”You see, sir, the way I figure it, this job is an opportunity for me to make a contribution. That’s why it is so important for me. So, if you’ll just give me a chance. I don’t have to sleep in your facilities. I’ll sleep in my car and bring my own food. I’ll work for nothing for two weeks and, if after that amount of time, you want me to leave. I’ll walk away with no questions asked.”
As I listened to my son wheedle his way into the situation of his dreams, I felt a gentle wave of relief and satisfaction flow through my body. These parental emotions had somehow eluded me prior to that moment.
Chris got the job, kept it for two consecutive summers, and was promoted to a management position before he eventually moved on.
Today, Chris is one of the most amazing people I have ever known.
Nonetheless, by his own admission, my son wasn’t an easy kid to raise. When he was in the third grade, he was considered to be so “incorrigible” I had to provide an adult to help supervise him while he was at school.
Lisa wasn’t any easier. She was the daughter my mother was referring to whenever she would tell me, through gritted teeth, “I hope you get a daughter exactly like you someday!”
The tattoo on Lisa’s left ankle serves as a reminder of the tumultuous times we went through—together. It’s the only sign that remains of her struggle to become the outstanding young woman she is today.
What I have learned hasn’t come from life in an ivory tower. Indeed, it has come from living in the trenches, and I’ve got the battle scars to prove it.
I’m not an “expert” in the traditional sense of the word. I haven’t racked up impressive stacks of academic credentials. My qualifications come from more than 30 years of firsthand experience working directly with children in myriad capacities. I’ve been a special programs director, teacher, school administrator, single parent, adoptive parent, stepparent, and grandmother.
Sharing what I have learned while raising my own children and working with hundreds of children like them is what The Joy of Parenting books are all about.
The Joy of Parenting Book One – SUCCESSFUL PARENTING (Six Simple Steps to Being a Great Parent)
The Joy of Parenting Book Two – PARENTING GOALS WORTH ACHIEVING (Four Simple Steps that can Help Parents Define and Achieve the Right Parenting Goals)
The Joy of Parenting Book Three – WHAT EVERY CHILD NEEDS (Six Simple Steps that Help Parents Meet Their Children’s Basic Needs)
The Joy of Parenting Book Four – EMPOWERING PARENT/CHILD RIGHTS (12 Personal Rights that Lead to Mutual Respect and Fairness Between Parents and Children)
The Joy of Parenting Book Five – REWARDING PARENT/CHILD RELATIONSHIPS (Six Simple Steps to Establishing and Maintaining Loving Parent/Child Relationships)
The Joy of Parenting Book Six – DISCIPLINE THAT ACTUALLY WORKS (Six Simple Steps to Replacing Unacceptable Behavior with Acceptable Behavior)
The Joy of Parenting Book Seven – RAISING A RESPONSIBLE CHILD (How to Teach a Child the Living Skills Needed to Live Intelligently and Responsibly)
The Joy of Parenting Book Eight – RAISING A MORAL CHILD (How to Help a Child Develop and Maintain a Moral Compass)