So, April’s almost gone, and I see I’ve completely missed Take Your Kid to Work Day. This may be because I no longer have little ankle-biters hanging around my house. Which would also explain why I have absolutely no knowledge of whatever horrible, noisome establishment parents are currently taking their kids for birthday parties and apres-soccer events, where the kids can scream and run around and become bug-eyed and borderline violent from junk food while their parents mope and drink and check their watches on the sidelines, wondering where the best years of their lives have gone.
However. I was a pioneer in what used to be known as Take Your Daughter to Work day in the early 1990s. Of course, I had to put up with my husband’s total lack of support and his criticism about how this was all a sexist day and why wasn’t I also trying to take our son to work, too, along with our daughter? Answer: Because I was trying to be a good mother, but I still had some shreds of common sense left and wasn’t totally crazy. Two kids at a workplace? Even I wasn’t guilt-bloated enough to fall for that one.
But, the first year, I did take our daughter and one of her friends to two workplaces. (My own so-called workplace, a home office with a desk and computer where I drooled and banged my head on level surfaces had been rejected as Not Sufficiently Interesting.) So, we went to see a friend who was an editor at the newspaper, then another friend who worked in public television.
The two girls were polite and curious. They listened to my friends talking about writing and editing for the newspaper and producing shows for public television. I hovered on the sidelines, eavesdropping. After a while, I noticed, everybody got a little bored. There’s a reason why young children want to grow up to be fire fighters and astronauts: Those jobs involve color and action. Work that resides longer inside your head is a little harder to explain; it involves subtle, quiet thrills that don’t quite translate for kids in grade school.
At the TV station, though, a moment of drama occurred. One of the women who worked there fainted. An ambulance was called and it arrived with sirens blaring. Paramedics leapt out and carried her on a stretcher back to the ambulance. Sirens wailed again.
On the drive back home, the emergency was all the girls could talk about. Forget the writing, the editing, the production.
“We heard,” my daughter said, “that the woman had been on a diet. That’s why she fainted.”
“Diets can be bad for you,” her friend agreed.
I listened to their excited talk and didn’t say much. I didn’t want to weigh in and tell them the awful truth: People went on diets all the time in the workplace. But the ambulance, the siren, the stretcher — that was more excitement than I’d ever seen before in my years of work.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
At some point in the 90s, it became “Take Your Kid to Work Day.” I had a son and thought it would be bad parenting if I didn’t haul him to the Capitol with me for a day of nonprofit lobbying where I politely made my case and legislators not-so-politely ignored me. It was lucky thing, I thought, that it might be interesting on the day that my grade school son came along.
My son got to meet his state senator and his state representative. He got to see Mom doing her best for a good cause. He got to see evil tobacco industry lobbyists on the other side of the room. Surprisingly, he was still bored. We might as well have been sitting at a desk all day.
So that was the last “Take Your Kid to Work Day” for me.