Spoiled children and first seven jobs

In my last post, I promised a photo of me looking disapproving at the amusement park, and today was supposed to be that day. Except that the sky is grey, again, and threatening to thunderstorm, AGAIN, and so I am just looking disapproving in my kitchen:


The thought of packing up snacks, bug spray, and the children, and then driving twenty-five minutes, only to get rained on or electrocuted is disheartening to say the least, and so it looks like another somewhat indoorsy day.

I read a piece in the New Yorker called Spoiled Rotten, in which an anthropologist studied families in Los Angeles and in an Amazonian tribe, to see the difference in the role children played in the family structure. Predictably, the children in LA were complete spoiled brats who refused to tie their own shoes or fetch their own silverware from the drawer, whereas the Amazonian children were significantly contributing to the household, and society in general. In the natural order of things, of course, the LA children turn into thirtysomethings whose moms are still doing their laundry while they make YouTube videos in the basement, and the Amazonian children turn into functioning adults who go out in the world to seek their fortune, just like fairy tale heroes of yore.

It really made me think, being that it was a think-piece and all. Of course, for narrative purposes, the author would have chosen to write about the absolutely worst LA children and the most self-sufficient Amazonian tribe in order to get the starkest contrasts. However. It had me wondering if my kids could be doing more, if I expect too little of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel like I expect a lot. I expect excellent behaviour wherever we go. I expect them to get good grades and work very hard year-long, including summer worksheets and writing projects. I expect them to look people in the eye when they are speaking, to shake hands when meeting someone for the first time – and to put some meat into those handshakes, no dead fish hands please – I expect them to introduce themselves and say “Nice to meet you.” I expect them to make their beds, put away laundry, help with yard work and household chores, set the table, clear the table, load the dishwasher, and feed the dog. They often help chop vegetables and they help my husband put up and take down exterior decorations for Christmas and Halloween, Jake knows how to change a tire and jack up the car and Mark helps with the pre-winter maintenance of the air conditioner and shovels the sidewalk.

So they aren’t like the LA kids in the essay, and – PLEASE GOD – they won’t be living in my basement in 20 years. But there are a lot of things that I knew how to do at their age that they don’t. For example, I used to babysit a lot, and I would cook lunch for my little charges all the time, mostly Kraft Dinner or Zoodles, but I knew how to do it. Only yesterday did I show the boys how to turn on the stove. They have never cleaned a bathroom and their ability to sweep the floor leaves much to be desired. Also, much to be picked up by Roomba.

Speaking of Roomba, he continues to be the naughty little pet that we all love. We love his industry, and we laugh when he bumps into a side table and ends up with a piece of paper jauntily riding atop his little body. Roomba is wearing a hat! we say joyfully. A few times Roomba somehow got tangled up in the toilet paper, leading to a giant shredded mess all over the basement. Oh, Roomba! we shake our heads at his well-meaning but disastrous attempt. Just a few days ago, the boys ran upstairs in a state of excitement. Roomba, they said, had tried to eat the laces on my husband’s trainers, and had dragged the shoe all over the basement.

I feel like this could be the start of a very exciting reality show, or maybe even a sitcom. It would be at least as entertaining as any of the ones currently on air. The Adventures of Roomba! Roomba would surely be a contributing member of society, not like those spoiled children in LA.

Speaking of (semi) spoiled children, I must now send them to the Co-Op by themselves to buy a loaf of bread since we have, inexplicably, ran out. Never mind that we all were buying cigarettes for our parents at the corner store at age seven, and the six-year-old Amazonian children are catching and cleaning all the shellfish for the tribe to have for dinner, I am PROUD that my children can go to the Co-Op by themselves, armed only with a fiver, my Co-Op number, and a reusable bag. And then – AND THEN – they can take that damn loaf of bread and make sandwiches from it for their lunches because I am raising my children to be competent adults, and also they don’t eat Zoodles or Kraft Dinner.

Oh! But I had forgotten what I had been actually planning to write this post about, and no, it wasn’t actually the New Yorker piece. What can I say, I digress easily. There has been a meme going around about Your First Seven Jobs and I thought it would be fun if you could play along too. What were yours? Here are mine:

  1. Babysitter (this should be obvious from the entire post)
  2. Page at the public library, where I shelved books and impressed the interviewers with my knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System and my volunteer work as a candy striper at a nursing home.
  3. Pizza Hut employee, where I did all jobs from bussing tables to answering phones to making pizza to being a cashier. It was a fun job in that I had a lot of friends there, but it was also a terrible job because people LOVE to scream at the teenage employees when their pizza does not arrive in a timely fashion.
  4. Salesgirl at a ladies’ clothing store, where I discovered I did not want to sell anything, ever again.
  5. Waitress at Moxies’ – another fun job where I also discovered that working in customer service is very hard. This job made me empathetic every single time I had a meal out that went awry for any reason.
  6. Beer sample girl. If you want a job where you get hit on by disgusting, much older alcoholics, and everyone treats you like a brainless idiot, this is the job for you! I finally quit in a fit of rage when the company got a contract with Busch, and I would have been required to wear a Busch bathing suit to hand out samples. In a freezing cold liquor store. NO THANK YOU, YOU MAY KEEP YOUR SEVEN DOLLARS AN HOUR.
  7. Summer student at a petroleum company. This was my first taste of corporate life, and I got to use my linear programming skills, so it was great. It ended up leading to my first “real” job that didn’t involve food, customer service, or bathing suits.

Please play along! What were your first seven jobs? All of these jobs took place within the span of a decade, which seems amazing for some reason.


  1. First 7 you say? You’re going to make me think really hard. That was a long time ago

    1-Zales Jewelers as a gift wrapper
    2-English professor’s aid
    3-Pharmacy Tech
    4-Taco Bell (college student)
    5-Preschool Teacher
    6-Private school Kindergarten Teacher
    7-Office Supplies Saleswoman (most $)

    Now, I’m a writer! (Life long dream)

  2. Hm, let me see. These might not be in the right order but they’re approximately right.

    1. Proofreader for my dad (who makes websites)
    2. Babysitter
    3. Customer service for a stoves and fireplaces warehouse
    4. Customer service assistant in Sainsbury’s (big supermarket)
    5. Telephone fundraiser for my college
    6. Tutor
    7. Nanny/au pair

    It gets a bit weird near the end of the list because I was sort of doing all the last three at the same time, plus various other jobs too.

  3. I googled “Zoodles” because I figured you weren’t talking about zucchini noodles.

    babysitter–for years and years and years. All the way through college.
    waitress (We weren’t called ‘servers’ in those days.) Recently saw my old boss and he was killing himself laughing remembering various mishaps.
    nursery worker at a church near my college
    youth intern in charge of all summer activities at my home church
    English tutor–peer tutor for college students, mostly ESL students
    intern at Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
    intern at a county-wide chamber of commerce

  4. Our kids can do a few things around the house but I have to admit, it is 100% thanks to my husband, who is always focused on making our kids into actual members of society, and has worked hard to teach them basic cleaning and cooking skills, while I fuss in the background about MY BABIES. I’m sure if I were in charge they’d still be sitting on the couch while I bring them hot dogs and pick up all their toys. I am a terribly indulgent mom.

    As for 7 jobs – I think I will blog it!

  5. 1) Shelver at a public library
    2) Bagger at a grocery store
    3) Scooper at an ice cream shop
    4) Deli counter clerk at a convenience store
    5) Table busser at a restaurant
    6) Line server in a college cafeteria
    7) Janitor’s assistant on a college campus

    This takes me up to the summer I was 21. The next fall I got a job grading homework papers for a Spanish professor. I was a senior in college and excited to have my first academic job, though I also made photocopies and collated papers for her.

  6. Ack I was on vacation and therefore am super late but want to play anyway!

    camp counselor
    clerk in a video store (as in VHS tapes not DVDs, I’m old)
    movie theater usher/ticket seller/concessions
    law clerk

    Oldest (13) can cook basic stuff, does his own laundry, sets table, takes dishes to dishwasher, takes out trash and recycling. Youngest (7) sets table, feeds pets, and takes dishes to dishwasher. Neither of them scrub bathrooms or floors but I have a cleaning lady who does that because both H and I work outside the home and I don’t have time I want to spend doing it either. So I guess my whole family is spoiled in that respect 😉

  7. foreverinmomgenes says

    1. Babysitter
    2. Office temp at an Insurance Company
    3. Eaton’s purse department salesperson
    4. Bootlegger (the jean store I didn’t sell moonshine! haha)
    5. Summer job at a cardboard box factory…I sh*t you not. #papercuts
    6. Server/Bartender
    7. Teacher
    And now I’m a freelance writer…my favourite so far. 🙂

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