I have been a volunteer my entire life. As long as I can remember, I was cleaning parks, painting over graffiti, teaching children…
When I had my own children, I knew we would do volunteer work together. The kids helped the March of Dimes, and we all worked for the food bank.
Many volunteer opportunities have minimum age limits, I guess for liability purposes. When my oldest was finally old enough, I signed us up. We were going to work at the church food pantry.
Not only was my son learning to serve other people, and appreciate the value of helping those in less fortunate circumstances, there was an additional unexpected benefit. He was learning job skills.
Having your eight-year-old son as your coworker is a phenomenon I don’t think many parents have dabbled in. I have had a lot of rewind moments I wanted to do over. I had to suppress unexpected urges to correct his body language, groom him, etc. I had to make a point to tell myself I would only correct things an actual boss would. My first job was at Disneyland, so I was able to capitalize on the things my bosses have had the nerve to correct. I think I’m nicer, though.
Aside from getting over the fact my eight-year-old is my coworker, I felt the pressure of modeling great job skills. Those awkward moments of ambiguity, taking initiative, doing the job to the best of our abilities… took me back to my first jobs where I might not have done my very best. Turns out I didn’t need to worry about him. He commits to every shift. He looked for more work when his work was done. He worked quickly. He took pride in his work. He observed how the supervisor did things. He wanted to learn.
While I am grateful for the opportunity for my son to learn to serve others, I am extra happy to see him learn job skills before they really count. I’m so happy for him and his accomplishments. The little things he’s learning now will be invaluable when he gets his first “real job.”