I thought that when my children were young and worked the paper route that we were teaching them good things.
But I've come to realize that a child having a job and saving money doesn't quite have the same effect when they do not have any bills to pay.
I watched each of my three boys take over that paper route. For years our family supported that lifestyle. Every weekend for YEARS we were up to make sure the kids were okay getting the papers out by 7 am. See, just because the paper boy is ready to deliver, doesn't mean that the adult who was supposed to deliver the papers to him made it there on time.
My kids left neighborhood friends, pick up games, and many social situations to make sure they had the weekday papers delivered by 5 pm EVERY day.
They kept careful check of the weather. Doubled bagged those papers if it was raining or the threat of rain.
We never went away on weekend trips. We would watch the neighbors pack up their cars to go camping, sight seeing or visit relatives. But not our family - we had the paper route. And trying to find another kid that wanted to get up early on weekends or give up his "free afternoon" time was like pulling teeth. No kid wanted any part of it.
Our life revolved around having to be home every single weekday by 4 pm so that the papers went out and every Saturday and Sunday up at 6 am.
Summertime was a bit easier. They weren't outside delivering in the dark or cold. But those other months? Well - we weren't comfortable sending our kids out on their bikes alone in the dark to deliver papers. So many times, one of us drove them. Parents have to be more cautious of what dangers their children may be facing. The world isn't what it used to be for a paper boy.
Additionally, people aren't the nice individuals that you would imagine your children would encounter. Nope. Not at all.
The customers were grouchy.
Out of the whole list of customers, two or three may have tipped our kids.
They had a specific list of demands. "Bring the paper up to the porch, don't just throw it into the driveway." "Don't use the newspaper mailbox, even though it is there." "Always double bag my papers, even if it isn't raining." (By the way, never a tip from that gentleman.)
As paper boys, they didn't need to go door to door to collect payment anymore. The newspaper let customers pay for their accounts by credit card directly to the paper. So each billing period those people paid for their accounts. And nothing more. They didn't put a tip on the bill for my sons.
It was very frustrating. I learned quickly how unkind people could be. This was not a surprise. What WAS a surprise is that adults would be unkind to a young child.
After all, if you could jip a 10 year old paper boy - what kind of human being are you really?
Each of my boys saved their paychecks and eventually each opened up a savings account. They each had the route for years. They built up nearly a couple thousand dollars each in the bank. They bought themselves new bikes to deliver papers with. They purchased Christmas cards every year and signed them and delivered them to their non-tipping customers. One of my son's even managed to put money into his own CD - and I'm not talking about music - while earning his paychecks.
There were the few individuals along the way who made the difference in my boys' lives and kept their faith that human beings could be kind. Those people were the ones who kept them working.
The one retired gentleman who was restoring an old WWII army jeep in his garage. He befriended Son #1 who is an avid History lover. He would invite him and show him the work he had completed each weekend. After a year and a half one day he drove to our house, rang our doorbell and wanted to take Son #1 for the first ride. They were a wonderful older couple. They acknowledged my son's work. Treated him kindly and with respect. Took the time to talk to him. Encourage him. Then they moved. Their son moved into their home. And we learned soon enough that it was not going to be "like father, like son."
Son #3 began to receive side jobs from the paper route. He had a couple of customers that paid him to look after their home while they would travel. Picking up anything left that might show their was no one home. Making special requests about packages delivered. Making sure the house was not tampered with in any way. She had her hands full as her husband was very ill. She appreciated my son's extra efforts and compensated him abundantly.
We quickly realized that the older generation - the grandparents - were much more appreciative of our boys. They seemed to respect their willingness to work. They were kind. Took the time to get to know them. The younger generation - the ones raising kids now - not so much. They were too busy. Caught up in themselves. They didn't care how the paper got there - just as long as it did.
Plant watering became another side job. After all, when you are already alerting your paper boy that you will be going on vacation and to put a stop on your paper - why not ask him to water your potted plants while you are away? So for years my son's took on this responsibility as well. In fact, the phone still rings for my boy's to take care of things for the neighbors. Son #1 had that paper route nearly 7 years ago - but just watered flowers last month for the lady around the corner.
They worked hard. Were paid little. Mostly treated rudely. Gave up a tremendous chunk of their lives and time. In fact, our entire family did. Eventually, that idealistic innocence was lost as my children grew older and after many years our family was finished with that route. They kids were tainted and disillusioned with the world they were providing a service to.
We looked forward to not having that paper route dictate our lives every day. We looked carefully to choose someone to hand it over to. We wanted another family that would handle it with the same kindness that we had. We gave it to a family a few streets over with a couple of brothers who could share in the load. Soon after, we cancelled our subscription. We found that we were just reading the paper online anyhow.
Over 7 years ago, our family took on that paper route. But each of my kids still has the money in the bank from that endeavor.
I am proud of them for all that they committed themselves to and the unkindness that they endured from the people who could have cared less about their 10 year old paper boy.
It was a hard lesson for them to learn. About people. About life.
It certainly made them realize what they were willing to do and not do for money.
Some days I am impressed that they have all of this money in the bank to spend.
Other days, I hate it.
When I told Son #3 - "If you vacuum all three floors for me and clean all 3 of the bathrooms for me, I'll give you that $20.00 bill in my purse."
He laughed at me.
Then he said, "Make it $60.00 and you've got a deal."
I said, "$60? Are you crazy? $20.00 is MORE than enough compensation for that job."
He shook his head and wasn't interested.
Later that afternoon, I told my husband what had happened.
My husband said, "He doesn't need money. If he needed it he would have jumped all over that. But he's got lots of money in the bank - why should he clean toilets for $20?"
I thought about that statement.
It is totally true.
So when Son #1 came home I told him the story. I was interested in it from his perspective. After all, he has the most money in the bank. He has another job now working at a pizza shop making about $150 a week.
"Oh my gosh! Why didn't you ask me? I would have been all over that for $20 bucks!"
Of course he would.
He is driving.
He needs gas money.
He complains on a daily basis about the price of gas. He nickel and dimes me for every errand I ask him to run.
One day Son #3 is going to wish he had taken me up on my offer.
He just doesn't realize it yet.
(P.S. If you have a paper boy delivering your newspaper - get to know his name. Wave to him. Smile and thank him. And for goodness sakes - TIP him!)