I work with kids. Literally. Kids so young, some don’t have bank accounts. Last week I traded a shift with a boy who had to get permission from his parents in order to work an evening shift on a school night.
I also work with people my own age, and also a handful who are older, but – most of the time, at work, I’m the “old lady”.
It’s an odd role for me.
I’ve been working customer service jobs for over half my life. In fact, as long as some of the kids at the ‘bucks have been alive. There are times I find myself frustrated with a young’in, like a new hire’s blank, devoid-of-all-personality personality, and I have to remind myself that I was once 16 at a new job, too. And I was scared, overwhelmed, didn’t know what to do with myself. When the older, or “old” as I thought of them, coworkers would talk to me, I’d stutter and look at the ground. So I work hard to engage with the shy kids at work, encourage them.
And this is hard, sometimes, because like the old adage says, you can lead a 16-year-old to an espresso maker, but you can’t make them suddenly have a sparkling disposition.
I do find myself having those old people thoughts of “What’s wrong with kids today?” It’s trite and easy to fall into that pessimistic, critical thought pattern. Each generation thinks they are superior to the next, so I’m not saying this, exactly. But, the differences between someone who brags they “Once used a VCR” compared with an aging old fart like myself do seem to widen as the years past.
The oddest role I have there, the label that doesn’t fit me exactly, is “Mom”. Like, I know, I’ve been in the “Mom” game for nearly seven years, but it is odd to hear it all the time. “Oh, Nicole, she’s this way because she’s a Mom”, or “Oh my God, Nicole, you’re such a Mom!”. I still think of myself as “lady with kids” but that label, “Mom”, seems so formal or something.
A part of me likes to imagine they are referring to me as “Mom” in *this way* but I know it means I’m a fuddy-duddy lady completely out of touch with what the cool kids are doing these days.
And I am fine with that.
The idea of being 18 again, but adding in the expectation of a perfect selfie at any angle, having to present myself in an ideal way online, and having to wade into the dating waters in this age of zero-phone-calls and the idea a guy will ghost you; oh man. I’m glad I was born in the cusp of the generation of men who called, and I got to meet guys (back when I was single) the old-fashioned way, in person, not online.
It is sort of funny, on a Friday night and a 19-year-old is eager to get released from their shift to “Go Out” and I’m steaming milk, I think “this is my social life, right here”, because, in a certain sense, that’s true. Slinging drinks, blending fraps and mopping the floor are my escape from ‘mommy-hood’ and that might be a role I never once imagined I’d find myself in.