On my fourteenth birthday, I applied for my first job. Oh sure, I had a paper route when I was 11 and I babysat regularly for neighbours but this job meant I'd be a clerk in an giant clothing store housed within an oversized mall. It was a real job. I was hired on the spot; so desperate the manager was for help. I went home, triumphant and excited, so thrilled to tell my parents my news.
My mom, she was less excited. Her maternal worries about my age, my grades, my childhood in general all sucked the air out of my balloon of exuberance. I remember standing in her sewing room explaining why it was a great idea that I have a part time job while she stood there looking less than thrilled.
She relented and the very next day I started my job.
I can still remember the smell of the dusty back room and the hours I spent putting clothes onto flimsy plastic hangers and shoving them into over stuffed racks. It wasn't a great job, but it was my job.
It was the first of many crappy jobs. Clothing stores, daycares, hobby shops, movie theatres. I learned that one minimum wage job was as bad as the next and was convinced retail was Dante's first level of hell.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago and suddenly my fifteen-year-old son was standing in front of me explaining that he was offered a job and it's a really great idea as I stood there looking less than thrilled.
But like my mother did before me, I swallowed my maternal worries, nodded my head and sent my baby off to his first day of work.
Nash, the friendly neighbourhood construction gopher, after his first day at work.
Just when I was coming to terms with the fact my son had willingly traded away his summer in pursuit of hard labour and the almighty dollar, my daughter walked into the house and jumped up and down excitedly about a paid internship at the local hospital and could I believe they chose her?
I wouldn't have believed it if they hadn't chose her.
Ken, the friendly neighbourhood pediatric intern, after HER first day of work.
My visions of spending my summer kicking back by the pool, having the teens wait on me hand and foot, evaporated as quickly as the dollars from my bank account did after purchasing steel toed work boots, comfortable walking shoes and more business casual clothes than I have ever owned in my life.
Having two working teenagers sure cost me a lot of money. I must be doing this job thing wrong.
Every morning I watch Ken and Nash leave for work and every evening I watch them come back home and I can feel the sands of time slipping through my fingers. I'm watching these kids of mine play grownup now but soon enough I will blink and they won't be playing at it any more.
One day soon enough they'll leave for something bigger than me and they won't walk back through my door at the end of every day.
It's sweet and salty all at once. Like biting into a salted caramel.
I thought I had parenthood finally figured out but it turns out I have no idea how to do the one thing I need to do the most: Learn how to let them go.
So I'll just keep watching them come and go, new milestones reached with every day that passes and I'll keep holding them tight for as long as they let me until they've taken all that they need to be the people they are becoming.
In the mean time, I'll always have salted caramels.