for release May 25, 2001
by Melodie Davis
Back To Work: Reality Check
Remember when your babies had their days and nights mixed up? You tried desperately to keep them awake through the day, and then at night they'd be alert for 4-5 hours at a stretch.
Well guess what, they go off to college, come home and they still have their days and nights mixed up. Now that most college kids are home for the summer, I'm trying to get used to this again. Am I the only parent around who looks at young adults sleeping until 11:00, noon, or 2:00 if you let them and go: how did they get this way?
I have often asked why we have to beg toddlers to go to bed, while as adults, most of us love it when we can finally toddle off to the bedroom and catch a few winks.
College kids do have to adjust their schedules once they start a job. Unfortunately, it seems like some young adults think they can live like people on the TV show "Friends," just hanging out all day in other people's apartments, talking, maybe someone cooking a dish now and then, eating, flirting, dealing with relationships. When do these people on TV work anyway? Eventually our young adults find out that "Friends" isn't quite as much fun as it looks on television. In addition to violence on TV affecting our kids, right now I'm worried about how TV affects kids' attitudes towards work.
I've finally decided on one hand that sleeping until noon if they get a chance is a phase of life like any other and it is probably best not to fight it, to just accept it as a phase they go through.
But will we as parents be brave enough to let them experience a little reality check if they look like they're going to live a perennial "Friends" lifestyle?
I had to think of a friend, Susan (name changed). She recently started raising turkeys in our rural valley, one of the poultry-producing capitals of the world. She is an animal lover and very much an outdoors-type person, so the combination of being able to be her own boss, work with animals, and still stay at home with her preschooler looked appealing.
Back in January she got one of my daughters to baby-sit so she could work without interruption doing the painstaking work of cleaning out the turkey house for the next batch of turkeys (an ordeal she goes through about every two months I think). It was a freezing cold day but there Susan was washing down the turkey house with a sprayer and disinfectant in a smelly, drafty, poultry house.
She said for a while she had college student interns who wanted to be veterinarians come out to the farm to get some real "experience" working with animals. They were so excited until they got their first assignment. She told them they could go through the turkey house and pick up the dead birds. (She wasn't trying to be mean, it was the most urgent job.) Some balked-and never returned to the farm. So much for the fun-and reality of working in any setting with animals.
Susan's little daughter, Justine, is a very verbal three-and-a-half-year-old little charmer and makes me think further of the reality check in store for many of our young adults regarding the hard realities of the work world. She loves the turkeys, which she calls birds, and considers them her family's personal pets-all 18,000 of them. When someone asks her what pets she has she responds, "Cats, dog and birds," and she means the turkeys! Consequently, when her mother is out taking care of the birds, Justine doesn't really consider it working. When asked whether her mommy works, she says, "No, she stays home and takes care of our pets." Further, she thinks that her mother takes care of the birds because there were "too many born" for their own mommies to take care of them.
This brief glimpse back into the hard world of farming (I grew up on a chicken farm and spent many a summer and winter night catching chickens) was enough to make me appreciate afresh the reality of a farmer's life-male or female. I know, to young adults, hearing about what is was like to catch chickens in the old days is as ho-hum as hearing my father talk about shocking wheat by hand and husking corn without a corn picker.
While readjusting to life outside a college dorm when nights and days get mixed up can be tough, it's a reality that has to happen somewhere along the way. Or else these kids remain as clueless as sweet little Justine-but then it isn't so cute anymore. The time has to come when we shove them out of the nest and say: "Wake up sleepy head. Get a job."
What do you think? Send your stories to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 750 words; end material = 105 words
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