My youngest is on holiday from work and pays a visit. As a working girl now, she doesn’t get many of these.
She’s also ‘on-call’ to beeps on her phone as work messages come in all the time we’re together, on outings, even during a leisurely breakfast.
I raise my eyebrows.
We have a natural habit of respect in this house; of paying attention to the person you’re with, rather than the person on social media. She notices my quizical grin.
“It’s work!” she says indignantly, knowing what I’m thinking. “And it’s part of what being a good manager is. I want to look after my staff and help the business run smoothly.”
“But even while you’re on holiday? Surely even managers need time off,” I said.
But what I’m also thinking is; how on earth did she get to be so hardworking and conscientious about it?
There were times home educating – plenty of times, in fact, especially in her teens – when she couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes most of the day. There were times when it was hell trying to get her to do anything that resembled ‘work’ of any sort. There was a time when she didn’t read – right into her teen years. There were times when she spent more energy procrastinating than accomplishing a task in hand. There were plenty of times when people made comments like; ‘If she’s not in school being made to do things, how will she ever know what real work is?’ Or; ‘If she doesn’t get up in the morning how will she learn how to get up for work?’ Or ‘She’s never going to be able to hold down a job if she doesn’t have a routine of work’. Or ‘How’s she going to cope with a proper working life?’
But I just kept faith. I knew my daughter. I knew she had an active mind and was building skills, even if not in a recognisable routine way; building life skills, not school skills. And I held onto the strong belief that it is NOT necessary to give youngsters ‘practice’ at a schoolish kind of ‘work’ in order to practice for a working life, because school life is totally unlike a real working life, for all sorts of reasons (choice being among them), although most people don’t own up to that. But the youngsters know!
Young people are not stupid. They know what they see for real and what others are doing. Young people work out what they need and why they need it, and with some adult support they’ll build the skills they need and want because they naturally want to get into the real world of earning and working at fulfilling work. With a little guidance they’ll find out how to do so.
My youngest, in her twenties, lives independently now. She goes to work – far earlier than her scheduled hours – like her home schooled contemporaries. She is a conscientious, skilled, competent and empathetic manager, after only a few working years, who works so hard, even during her holiday, that I’m now telling her to slow down rather than get up and get on!
Who’d have thought it?
And what’s particularly satisfying is that those ignorant and insulting commentators all turned out to be completely WRONG!
So what did we do? We had faith (as well as the encouragement and – ok – maybe a bit of nagging which didn’t work). And we stuck to our belief in the fact that young people do not need coercing into work, they’ll do it when they see the reality. And we kept faith in the abilities of our young people.
Hope this little story gives you the courage to do the same.