My middle teenager began his foray into the workforce this past summer, and on my weekly excursions to fetch him from his job, somewhere between 11 p.m. and midnight, I’ve had plenty of time to reminisce about my own teenage employment adventures.

I mean, do we ever forget our first real jobs? Our first attempts at making our own money? Our first stab at some brand of independence? Mowing lawns. Babysitting. Waiting tables. Washing dishes. Putting doughnuts into paper boxes and tying them up with string.

No. I think not.

So, as I put my shoes back on and reluctantly get into my car yet one more time to retrieve my ambitious son from his place of employment (while 98 percent of my friends are already warm and cozy in their beds) I have flashbacks of my own lovely mother, Louise, awakening at the break of dawn in order to dutifully transport me to my high school job, which if I recall, began at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m.

For a family of natural-born night owls, this was obviously quite painful for all concerned. Oh sure, my mother would act pleasant enough, but it was just that – an act. She was a good cheerleader. And a dedicated mom.

Aside from the early rising issue, the bakery gig was really pretty sweet: free doughnuts, sneaking into the walk-in fridge to gobble handfuls of freshly washed, perfectly ripe strawberries, butter cookies, eclairs, rugelach, delicate chocolate cakes filled with fresh fruits and real whipped cream.

For a girl with a high metabolism and a sweet tooth, what was there not to love?

In full disclosure, my upscale “bakery girl” job wasn’t my first true venture into the working world. I had, prior to that, decided I could achieve extraordinary levels of personal wealth via the sale of holiday candles and Christmas cards. And so there I was, walking the streets with my sample books and catalogues as the sun set in the chilly autumn sky, knocking on neighborhood doors, attempting to charm people into ordering personalized cards with fake sparkly snow or evergreen boughs, or candles in tall, iridescent glass cylinders, emblazoned with snowflakes and candy canes.

It was an interesting work choice for a rather shy girl. But somehow, the idea of entrepreneurship appealed to me. Clearly, it’s in my blood, because I’d still rather charm strangers into purchasing candles adorned with elves than clock in for a corporate paycheck.

In an apparent act of rebellion to my years at the bakery, I moved on to something far more “earthy” – a job at a small, local fish market/restaurant. My friend was the waitress. I worked the counter. Yes. I was a fish girl. It was smelly and cold. And I didn’t last long.

When I picked up my pile of fish-store work clothes to put into the laundry hamper the morning after my shift, and got a full-on whiff of Charlie Tuna, I knew this career path would not bode well for my dating life. And so, I was out of there. Doughnuts and candles seemed far more lucrative, in hindsight.

To this day, if a career choice will potentially interfere with my love life, forget it.

I mean, let’s keep our priorities straight.

And so, with a plethora of personal teenage employment tales under my belt, I am now witness to my offspring beginning their own journeys into the world of money making. And it’s rather wonderful. Seeing them gaining some independence – along with pride and a growing bank account – is a lovely thing.

And although I admittedly don’t relish not being able to get into my jammies until midnight (if I’m not getting home until the wee hours, I’d prefer it to be because I was out on a hot date), I do love seeing the look of satisfaction on my child’s face when he proudly displays his paycheck and shares precious tidbits of his life on our late-night rides home.

And so long as none of them ask me to drive them to gut fish somewhere at 5 a.m., I’m 100 percent supportive of their ambitions.

Sidebar Elements

No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at or contact her at [email protected].

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