December 8, 2023
December 8, 2023

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Remember the Days When Teenagers Worked?

Sometimes I think that my thoughts are from another planet.

I grew up during a time when teenagers were anxious to get jobs and make their own money. During high school I worked every day after school at our shul office, helping them send out mailings, answer the phones and use the mimeograph machine (which today is passe), and was a welcome extra pair of hands for the secretaries. I felt so grown up, and with the money that I made I was able to buy my very own telephone and have it in my room. I can’t remember if I had my own number but I tend to doubt it. Each month I paid my parents for this expense. I laugh when I think of things today, when 35-year-old married children with their own growing families are still on their parents’ plans. When does that end? (Not sure.) Car insurance seems to go on forever, if allowed; health insurance, until a married child maxes out due to age, is also paid for by parents.

What a life.

Throughout my years of working at the Link I have made many wonderful friends through their role as advertisers in the paper. The lament that some of them often express to me is the difficulty in finding workers. These are businesses that depend upon the summer months for their major income. “We can’t find workers,” I hear all the time. In my usual anxious to be helpful way, I offer to help through the Link to look for workers. Guess what? What I thought was a cinch is really not so easy at all. Kids do not seem to care about working, and if they do, it can’t be too stressful and not for more than a day or two a week.

I had a conversation with a lovely mother who obviously (as all mothers do) wants only the best for her child. As I explained in the classified ad for Ice Cream on Grand—there is no problem with working on Friday night or Shabbat. I thought that information would mean that the owner would be inundated with calls from kids. Nina, what were you thinking? Firstly, it is the mom who makes the call and then speaks on behalf of her son, explaining that it would be too taxing and too much for him to work more than two days per week. Even one full day would be a lot for her “tatele.”

I am sure many of us recently watched movies and reels of the horrors during the Holocaust. Children younger than 16 had to fend for themselves, totally alone in the world, trying to make their way through every day while hiding or fighting in the forests. Were they too young? Yes they were, but they needed to stay alive. Today it is my feeling that most young people need nothing and the thought of working is from another planet. Why would they need money? They are constantly getting everything they want. I watch the stores on Queen Anne during lunch time. They are inundated with students from the local yeshivot buying lunch.

Our own kids all made their own lunches after a certain age and that was not unusual. They were capable, and it was what was done in our home. It is not easy to get into Lazy Bean and Sammy’s on a Motzei Shabbat when they are open and the tables are spilling over with patrons who are 16. That money is not coming from jobs that the kids are taking on. Please, I do know that there are those who babysit and make some money but I wonder if even that money is used for their entertainment purposes.

Getting back to Ice Cream on Grand, I was embarrassed by the one or two calls that were received about students wanting to work in the summer months. The few inquiries all had strings attached. What are we teaching our children? Should there not be a sense of responsibility in helping out financially even if the parents do not need it? We hear day after day about the concept of entitlement. It is a common discussion among middle-aged to older adults, but can someone please explain to me where it starts? I don’t blame kids for feeling like things are coming to them and then turning into young adults who feel the same way. Why wouldn’t they? As they say in Yiddish, which I am far from fluent in, “es kumt mir.” Everything is coming to them, and who is perpetuating this feeling? I think that it needs to stop and there needs to be a brave younger generation that will realize that teaching their children that they can have most of the things that they want is not to their benefit.

I forgot to thank Aryeh M. from CarYay for getting me my new Kia. I hope that I learn to use it soon!

Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected]

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