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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Dad, you would have to give up your job for Lent."

We can all use a little positive feedback now and then. I have certainly been preaching it's benefits when it comes to raising our kids but it is particularly gratifying when a little bit comes back my way.

My son came home from school today and started talking about Lent.  Apparently it began today, Februrary 22nd, and a few of his Christian friends were discussing the challenges of coming up with something to sacrifice during the next 40 days.  The usual necessities like chocolate, video games or TV were soon discarded as unreasonably harsh.  Giving up homework or math turned out to be the more popular deprivations among the 5th graders.  I am not sure how their parents will react to those suggestions though.

I asked my son what he would give up if we were to follow this particular religious tradition.  Would he give up ice cream or maybe agree not to play Angry Birds?  He brushed off the question and after a few seconds looked up at me and suddenly said, "Dad, you would have to give up your job for Lent."

The first response that popped into my head was, "Give up my job? That would't be too hard to do." Then a moment later, before I made the mistake of speaking my mind, I realized, "My son thinks I like my job so much that it would be a sacrifice worthy of Lent to give it up!".  While I do love my jobs (recruiter, teacher, board member, writer) and am grateful that I can do something I enjoy to make a living, giving them up would not necessarily qualify as denial in the strictly canonical sense.  However, I was thrilled that I have been able to make such an impression on my son.

How many kids out there are growing up listening to Mom and/or Dad complain on a regular basis about their crappy jobs and tyrannical bosses.  As our children grow into young adults, what will be their view of work and careers?  Will it be something to look forward to with enthusiasm as the next step in a fullfilling and exciting life?  Or will they fear the coming 40 to 50 years as ones of drudgery and imprisonment.  And, when they fear it, how enthusiastically will they prepare for it?

We parents all know that work is never good or bad all the time.  There will always be days when nothing seemed to work out well and it feels like it will be more of the same tomorrow.  Sharing only the good with our kids is a disservice to them as it will not equip them for their futures.  Likewise, exposing them only to the complaints is going to dampen their motivation.  Employers want young people with enthusiasm, energy and optimism.  Setting an example by visibly enjoying our lives (including work) can help to encourage that attitude in our kids.

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