Dorothy Harris

Summer: Work or play?

It's official. Today is the very last day of the school year and my kid's delighted to have summer stretching before her. This surprises me because Harris & Co.'s summers are almost as hectic as the rest of the year. As a dually-employed family, we've never had those long summer months my husband and I remember from our early childhood. While we spent summer days riding bikes to swim at a local lake, or played in the woods all day without adult supervision, our daughter has always been involved in some sort of organized activity. As a young child, she went to summer or day camp, later volunteering at the same locations once she was old enough to do so. Last year she started branching out to volunteer at places where she could get job experience in her chosen career field. Now that she's driving, we have been encouraging her to consider working a paying job this summer. After all, owning a vehicle requires funds to pay for gas, insurance and maintenance. I know some parents buy a car or truck for their kid, paying all the expenses, but this is not one of those families. (Key the teen eye-rolling here, please). While she was looking forward to not getting up so early, this is likely to evaporate like a dropped Popsicle on the pavement as soon as she finds a paying job. This is harder than it sounds, however, because she's in that conundrum of wanting her own vehicle, but not yet being able to drive on her own. For her to be employed, she must find something that coordinates with momma's schedule so she can catch a ride back and forth. If that wasn't enough of an obstacle, there's all this pre-work for next year's advanced placement classes, a summer online class, and a high-mileage running program she's also hoping to accomplish. It seems her dance card's nearly full. How do today's teens fit it all in?
My high school summers were spent waitressing at a local family-owned diner, starting at 6 a.m. I've always been an early bird so this wasn't such a big deal for me, but I remember my parents being less than pleased about driving me in each day. I worked every day until four o'clock, when the diner closed. It was a perfect summer schedule for a teen, giving me plenty of time to go out with friends each evening. Mr. Harris worked at a local gas station and grocery store. While we see teens in some positions around the community, it's clear that finding a summer job is quite a challenge in our area. Our hometown was a tourist area, with lots of places that opened just for the summer months. It was easy for a teen to land an entry-level service position in the stores, restaurants or ice cream parlors. Here in Highlands County, summer is the slow season and very few places are interested in hiring anyone, least of all a teen. I like my kid's idea of continuing to work in the field where she hopes to spend her career years. For her sake, I hope she'll be able to work this into a paying job for the summer. If not, she'll volunteer once more and maybe the desire for her own vehicle will encourage her to work harder towards landing a paying job next year. The summer months may stretch out before us, but now that our daughter's nearly a grown-up, lazy summers are only a memory.