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Salted Caramels

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.

Reader Comments (23)

Gah! I'm not ready! I will never be ready.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMomo Fali

Just curious-are their names short for something?

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRM

A beautiful story, it almost made me tear up. Our children grow up so fast and in an instant our lives are changing with them in a different direction than we are used to. New follower and glad I found you here. Love the blog as do so many. Have a wonderful day.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Davis

Sorry to comment again. I just read some of your Redneck blog. I understand, I lost my son at the age of 17. I talk about him on my blog a lot. It really doesn't get easier we just learn to live through the pain. Thank you for sharing and putting into words what is difficult to say.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Davis

Tanis, I started to wonder as I read this, will my oldest son ever be able to do that? He has Aspergers (probably) and sensory stuff, and he is almost 9. That's not SO far away from teenager job years, and I just wonder if he will progress to that place where he will be OK on his own. And then I stopped and realized who I was telling this to, and silly me because you understand that too in a way that is probably far, far better than I do.
Best of luck to your oldest two :)

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Dammit, now I'm crying. I'm fairly certain my one year old will never be big enough to have a job. Beautifully written.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

I'm only half joking when I tell my kids that I will be locking them in our basement once they arrive at their teen years. No growing up too fast allowed!

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSaskymama

I spend so much time encouraging my kids when they talk abut what they're going to be when they grow up. Having to watch them try on those ideas someday, I'm not so enthusiastic about.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhomemakerman

so grown-up, so enthusiastic, so happy to greet each new day... I need a pill that I can take that can give me that today.


July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTarasview

It is, indeed, bittersweet. Lovely writing.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

I have one going into high school, one going into middle. Jobs are the next step. I wish I had believed everyone that told me time would fly. More than that, I wish the magical Lamborghini in Back To The Future existed so I could snuggle them again. Good for you for letting them grow outside of your home. Lesson I hope I can master. You are a good Mom!

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Stiketto Mom

Gawd! I know how you feel! Mine is getting ready for her second year away at college. Taking her there last year nearly did me in! I thought "No way is it time for this!" And she's such a little thing, 19 but looks 14. Hell, I have to remind my self sometimes that shes old enough to do go and do things on her own, even though she practically needs a booster seat to see over the steering wheel... :-)

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmberJ

I'm sure she appreciates the correction.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Beautifully and tastily put. I feel this too when I watch my 14 year old.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatja

oh... yes... salted caramel.


I miss my Damn Emos now they are out in the world at uni. But I don't miss the amount of washing.

No, you're doing something RIGHT! Maybe they won't be sponging off of you when they get their first "real" job after college...in a field that wasn't their major, but it's a "fun" job...even if it doesn't quite pay all of the bills. (rant over)

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMary

I must be a terrible mother. I sent my eldest off to grade one when he was only five and off to the other end of the country when he was just 18. I danced for joy when my middle went off to college (I was going back to grad school myself) and moved 2,000 km. away from her a few years after that. Ditto with the youngest. Of course, as a child, I was an inveterate gypsy who loved my freedom and my parents were very generous in allowing me to go wherever I wanted so that may be why it's easy to allow my own kids their freedom

However - they are all adults now and freely chose to follow DH and I back to tiny Prince Edward Island to live (all but DH born here). It's ironic but maybe all that freedom resulted in their wanting to live close to us.

Still - sometimes I fantasize about moving to a deserted Newfoundland outport . . .

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

I know how you feel. They want to grow up so very fast and when they do you have to stop yourself crying.

My mum brought me up to work hard and I had my first job at 13. By the time Beautiful B wanted a part time job at 14 legally you had to be 16. She found a job at McDonalds at 16 and for the 2 years of college she worked her butt off and I was as proud of her as she was of herself.

It instilled a lot of values in her, the most being to work hard for your money. That helped her get a job in the hospital and now she comes home and moans about those that don't work hard all day.

Thankfully she is still living at home and I have some time before she will be moving out so I can prepare myself. There was a time she and her boyfriend were talking of moving in together until they saw sense and decided to enjoy their income before it was all tied down. Hubby held me as I cried in bed some nights at the thought of her leaving us, even if it was to a house not far from ours.

I don't think they ever grow up in our eyes Tania.

July 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTina @ ribenamusings

Very nice post, thanks!

July 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkate C.

Our youngest, who is almost 17, started applying for jobs right before she turned 14. She rode her bicycle to the fast food places closest to us, she was hired by the time she turned 14, but had to wait for her birthday to start working. She is still at that job and is now a supervisor. I am incredibly proud of her, she has the work ethic that I grew up with and my hope is it follows her through life. It's hard to let them grow up, but that is something that is out of our hands.

July 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

I hear ya, my oldest is moved out and my youngest will be gone in September...time flies so fast.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Redneck Princess

they never really go away.
my youngest is 27, her sister is 29 and their brother is 32.
they are still around, all the time.
and i like it that way...

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertilden

Next winter I can call myself the mother of a teen. Arrggh scary thing!
I got my first job at 15 at a psychiatric ward in a hospital, I ended up years later managing the high risk pregnancy clinic. My first job was still the most interesting because it taught me most about the human spirit.

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlma
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