Al and I recently came to a crossroads with Gabe. Or, more realistically, we were already there and just announced it to Gabe. Here it is: He needs to have a job.
We told him early this spring that he needed to have a full time summer job. I think it was a pretty simple and reasonable expectation for a sixteen year old, and he complied, mostly. In true teenager style, he agreed to get one, but was reluctant to actually go out looking for one. He said he wanted to do yard work for people–and even made poorly written posters with his phone number–but never put them up. We pushed and pushed, he resisted. Until I used the promise of a few Scoop Shack shifts to get him a dishwashing job at the Gravel Bar, where I work. I’ll give him a little credit–he went down to talk to Scott about it after I had laid the groundwork. So there’s a little motivation.
So he got a job. But then he hated it. And complained about it. And was slow in the dish pit. And did a bad job of communicating his sports camp schedule, which resulted in last minute shift cancellations, and even a couple missed shifts. Which is unacceptable in a small restaurant where there’s not many other employees to call at the last minute. Somehow he was still one of the more reliable dishwashers, and somehow Scott and Amy didn’t fire him.
Which brings us to August, when two-a-day football practices start. Gabe says that he told Scott he couldn’t work anymore, but he apparently did a bad job of it because Scott still put him on the schedule. Gabe missed the shifts, Scott got mad. Whose fault it is doesn’t matter; what we’re left with is Gabe’s last paycheck, which Scott won’t give to me because he wants Gabe to come down and come clean, and which Gabe won’t go pick up because he’s afraid of Scott.
So here’s a kid being raised by his brother; whose mother can’t emotionally or financially support him and who tries to help by bringing us Food Bank items; a kid whose reasonable athletic talents won’t realistically get him a college scholarship; a kid whose grades won’t get him a scholarship either; a kid who from sheer laziness or shyness or just plain teenage-ness refuses to go pick up a two hundred dollar paycheck.
Enter intervention time. What I realized this weekend–when I was laid up by a hurt knee, couldn’t walk or waitress, and asked Gabe to please cover a dishwashing shift because our boss was short a waitress, a dish dog, and a bartender–was that Gabe, unlike his peers, doesn’t have the luxury of not having a work ethic. Gabe needs a job. He needs to save money for college and all the things we can’t help him with, and he needs to build a resume so that when he finds himself in a strange town paying for his own school, he can actually get a job.
I announced all this to Al; he agreed to announce it to Gabe. Last night at dinner, we did: Gabe, you need to have a job, period. And it takes precedence over sports, period. One shift a week is all we ask, but you need to have something.
But I felt so bad about it, you know? I felt like I was punching a hole in an enormous dream balloon that I’ve been working so hard to blow up. It like this: we’ve been working hard to give him a good high school experience, like his peers have: a nice house, supportive family, plenty of food and new school clothes. Then here we are saying that unlike the rest of his peers, he needs to have a job. Because unlike the rest of his peers, no one is going to help him get out of town.
It’s a lot for a sixteen year old to face.
But he agreed to all of it, like the awesome kid he just might be. The real test is whether he actually goes out and gets one, or whether we’ll have to take away his car keys and his football uniform until he does. I hope he gets a job, because I’m not sure I can follow up if he doesn’t.