It began like any other work day.
Dressed in my suit and tie, I grabbed my stuff and said goodbye to my family before I head out to greet the workday.
“Stay here daddy. I don’t want you to go to work. And I don’t want to go to school. Let’s play!”
“Believe me, kiddo, believe me: I don’t want to go to work either.”
The words pass almost unconsciously from my lips. After all, nobody wants to go to work. Work is bad, right?
Well, no. Work is necessary. Work equals survival. Without work, nothing ever would get done. We’d still all be hunter-gatherers and there would be no civilization to speak of, modern or otherwise.
Maybe one doesn’t like their job, maybe one doesn’t like being away from their family for so long, maybe one would rather be doing something else for work, but work itself is not the problem.
“All jobs suck.”
“That’s why they call it WORK.”
“No pain, no gain!”
These things are true. But is that what kids hear? Are they able to parse these truths from generic statements like “I don’t want to go to work”?
Kids are sponges. We all know that. It’s what made me stop saying this to my son.
Maybe I’m paranoid, but I don’t want him to equate “work” in his little mind with “bad.” Because if I do, what’s going to happen whenever he has to work at something, especially something difficult?
…tough math homework?
…trying to make the basketball team?
…learning a musical instrument?
…writing a book?
…learning another language?
And then there is when he needs to “enter the workforce,” so to speak. The last thing I want is for my son to grow up thinking that misery is inevitable and that he is destined for an existence of unending drudgery.
“Life is a whole lot of doing things you don’t want to do.”
This is one of the axioms I coined–or think I did–in my youth. A lot of this is because I knew the ambivalence my own father felt about his chosen profession. But as I fear might happen with my son, I was being unable to discern “work” from “job.”
My dad is a hard worker, always has been and always will be. He inculcated a belief in the power of diligence and grit. And yet the message I received for some time was that “work is bad.”
Life is a whole lot of doing things you don’t want to do. But doing those things will let you do the things you do want to do.
Our primitive ancestors didn’t really want to hunt saber-toothed tigers or mastodons, after all. But they did it.
The Pilgrims didn’t really want to upend their lives, sail across the ocean, and make a go of it in a strange wilderness. But they did it.
The men landing on the beaches of Normandy didn’t really want to storm the Nazi barricades. But they did it.
So how bad can an office job really be if that work allows one to enjoy time spent with family, or even doing some work that is pleasurable?
A family’s gotta eat, after all.
My words and actions, from my complaints to my body language, will influence my son, and any other kids I hopefully have, in profound ways. I would rather he imbibe lessons that instill the values that he will need to make his life, and society as a whole, better.
The last thing we need are more whiny, complacent, entitled perpetual adolescents decrying the fact that they actually have to–gasp!–work in order to earn stuff.
I am willing to accept how corny this all sounds. But the corny stuff works.
“Can’t wait to go to work,” I said instead this morning, “the same way you can’t wait to get to school. And after that, we can play until bedtime.”
And you know something? He was easier to get ready for school today.
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