Summer is sadly barreling to a close for the Wyma family. The kids’ school begins next week (ohhh… say it ain’t so!!) One of the kids has been toiling away the entire summer, preparing for his academic year ahead. He’s amazing that way. I think it has something to do with his “owning” his life after we agonizingly stuffed our desire to race in and save him a couple years ago.

Still, let’s just say no one would ever have caught me studying during the summer. Noooo, even my summer reading requirements were always met the week before the school bell tolled. Quite frankly, it’s amazing I’ve ever gotten anything done considering my issues with disorganization, procrastination and propensity to eek every second of fun out of time-off. As I’ve witnessed one of the other kids walk directly in her mother’s footsteps, I’ve decided we have a case of Better Offer Syndrome. Must be genetic. I see it come into play as she puts off pressing matters that can be put off to hang with a friend, got to the movie, play in the pool with a sibling, … well, pretty much anything. All while her put-off-able task annoyingly looms in the background. At least I can commiserate.

But along with end of summer’s fast approach comes a few families reaching to grab just one last hurrah trip before it’s over. And here again, I have to give a big MOAT shout-out and thank you to a couple families who opted to forgo professional services to employ an able-bodied youth.

Like Ethan Hunt (Mission Impossible), we received two phone calls last week offering business opportunities, should my girls choose to accept. Which they did – excitedly. Upon acceptance, the girls met with their part-time employers, were introduced to their dogs, and got the job low-down.

Little did we all know that learning opportunities were hidden around every corner. Even at the onset.

At one house, the dad explained expectations. After walking the girls through the routine (food, watering, any medicine, brushing, walking, where to put the key, etc.) he asked the all important question, “So, how much do you think you should get paid?”

I looked at him. He looked me. The girls looked uncomfortable. I kept my mouth shut. (Yes, I did.) We all leaned into the uncomfortable silence. Then my oldest responded, “How much do you think it’s worth?”

Her response was music to my ears. Salary Negotiation101, never answer the “How much are you worth?” question. Always put it back to the employer – or at least try to.

Hinting a smile, the dad looked again at me. “I didn’t tell her,” I defend. “She came up with that all on her own.”

That dad and I both savored the teachable moment that this child would most likely never forget. Rather than surrender to momentary tension by blurting out some low number to ease the awkwardness, she let the moment stand and took the hard road by volleying the question back. And you know what happened? Exactly what happens in most cases. The number he hit back was higher than what she would have asked.

And the lessons kept coming.

One thing about work – it sounds like so much fun at the onset – even exciting. But reality sets in quick. Work involves toil. The girls have been busting their tails. Going from house to house 3 or 4 times a day. They’ve been picking up poop, filling water bowls and playing with lonely pups. So, they’ve learned a lot about monotony and the mundane. But they’ve also learned how to react when a curve ball crosses the plate.

Do you quit when the alarm unexpectedly goes off and police arrive at the house where you’re caring for a dog? Super scary for a 12-year-old who has been riding her bike to and from the houses. Mom wasn’t close by to help. The kid didn’t crater. She did call home for direction and help – which she received (Because isn’t that part of training? Not doing it all for them, but instructing, encouraging, showing them how to get back up when they’ve fallen.) And she got back on the horse. So the next day, when she had to open that door again, she was prepared (even though scared) to handle the unexpected – even if an alarm starting blaring.

Do you quit when one of your nervous wards races into the employer’s living room and poops on the beautiful oriental rug – even though the pooch had more than ample opportunity to care for her business outside? No. But again, assistance and training was around the corner and available – and the learning continued. This time while fighting a gag reflex.

So thank you neighborhood employers! The lessons have been ahhh-mazing! Lessons they could never learn without the opportunity.

Here’s to more and more opportunities and hoping that our eyes are open to them. Sure it might be easier to pay a professional. But what are we grooming when we do?

Thanks for walking the road with me.


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