After eight glorious years as a camper at a local day camp in Washington Township, it was time for my daughter to find a job. Thankfully, she was able to get a job this summer as a junior counselor at a sports camp located in nearby Short Hills, another fantastic day camp where her brother has gone happily for five years.
As a kid, I began working when I was 13 years old, tutoring Hebrew at my Hebrew School. I continued working at pizza places, ice cream shops, day camps, and fitness centers throughout high school and college and I know that I benefited from these jobs. Regrettably, in my community, having a job during the school year is rare. Kids are overwhelmed with schoolwork, sports, and activities, and there is little time to work. So I was very excited that my daughter would have the amazing experience of having a job this summer.
My belief that a paid job has numerous benefits for teens is supported by my parenting guru Wendy Mogel, author of “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” and “The Blessing of a B Minus.” Mogel uses her expertise as a psychologist along with her Jewish background to inform her parenting philosophy. In “B Minus,” she talks about the blessing of ordinary work, saying, “If we can pull away from our focus on the big, splashy, ego-gratifying activities of life, we can easily glimpse the blessedness in workaday tasks.”
Below, I hope to capture the “blessings” of my daughter’s experience as a junior counselor this summer:
1. The Blessing of Earned Pride
After being blissfully coddled at camp for over eight years, I was worried my daughter would have difficulty adjusting to being a counselor and not a camper. I did not need to worry. My daughter loved having responsibilities and jobs. She was assigned the task of making sure the water bottles were filled and distributed each morning. Knowing what was expected of her first thing every morning was empowering. As Mogel states in “B Minus,” “The moment a teenager is trusted with ‘key’ responsibilities, is a moment of earned pride.”
2. The Blessing of a Positive Work Environment
The camp she works at is a sports camp for all kids—athletes and non-athletes. The focus of the camp is on teamwork and having fun playing sports. These values permeate the camp and make it a positive place to be. My daughter is able to be authentic at this camp because these are values she shares. We live in a very competitive town where sports are taken very seriously; the balance of sports and fun at this camp is a wonderful alternative to that pressure.
3. The Blessing of the Back Story
After the first day of camp, my daughter came home telling me about one particularly difficult camper. The next day she learned that this boy actually had some tough things going on in his life. My daughter informed me that she had learned that bad behavior can often be traced back to something deeper and that you do not always know a person’s full story. Honestly, if that is the only lesson she learned this summer, I would be satisfied. A lesson in compassion is priceless.
4. The Blessing of Going to Camp with Your Brother
Since my daughter goes to Kent Place School, an all girls school, she and her brother will not have the opportunity to go to school together again. Being at camp together has been a wonderful chance for them to share camp stories and see each other in a different light outside of the home. I think they have a newfound respect for each other as well as a new zest for beating each other in ping pong—a major source of competition and fun at camp.
5. The Blessing of Having Role Models
Watching how head counselors, with ample experience in child development, teaching, and leadership, interact with the campers has provided my daughter with a deeper appreciation and understanding of what it takes to work with children.
6. The Blessing of Being a Role Model
My daughter obsessively puts on sunscreen at camp because, as she explained to me, the camp takes protecting your skin from the sun very seriously. She realized that she could not insist on her kids putting on sunscreen if she was walking around with a sunburn. Leadership is about practicing what you preach.
7. The Blessing of Understanding the Value of a Dollar.
When we discussed the price of an Airbnb rental we were thinking about getting for a family vacation, my daughter immediately compared the cost to her weekly salary. How many weeks would she have to work in order to pay for our place? Turns out quite a few. A salary puts costs in perspective.
8. The Blessing of Paid Work
My daughter is unabashedly delighted about making money. With all of the unequal pay issues women confront, I think the desire to be paid for your work is a valuable lesson to learn. As a career coach, I hear a lot of stay-at-home moms eager to get a paycheck again. There is something validating about getting paid, and a desire to get paid is not something girls or women should be ashamed of.
9. The Blessing of Patience
My daughter was put with the youngest group of kids, the 5-7 year olds. Many of these campers did not really understand the rules of games and she needed to learn how to let things go and give kids second chances. Of course you need patience when working with little kids, but you really need patience in any job, especially jobs dealing with customers. The ability to take a breath and give second chances is good for any type of work at any age.
10.The Blessing of Asking Questions
One of the directors of the camp complimented my daughter by saying she was never afraid to ask if there was anything for her to do. I love this! Asking questions is critical in life. If you can ask questions without worrying about looking silly, then you are lightyears ahead. In Judaism, this idea of questioning is reinforced and I truly believe this has benefited both of my children. The humility to know that you do not know everything and that there are resources available to help is critical to future career success as well as emotional health.
I am so grateful that my daughter’s first summer job experience was such a success and I think she really grew as a person. Having this foundation will hopefully prime her for future positive job opportunities and will hopefully set the groundwork for a satisfying and fulfilling future work life.