punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

"Take Your Child to Work" or "Parade Your Crotchfruit to Annoy Coworkers?"

Yesterday was "take your child to work day."

I didn't take CR, because he's seen what I do numbers of times, and my office can't fit two people at the moment (I am in some rotational computer upgrade hell, and I am surrounded by maybe 30 machines). He's also 13 now, and past the age "they" suggest you bring your child to work. He wanted to come, don't get me wrong, but since he also lost a lot of school days with that skin infection, I didn't think it was really worth it. But some people brought their kids, and for the most part, they were well behaved.

The kids I mean.

The parents? Well, not so much. Right now, we're in a layoff scare lockdown, so people are generally full of angst and worry as it is. "Mommy may not have a job next week, sweetie..." There were a lot of these types of people as well, and some of the mutterings made me question the validity of "Take your child to work" day. So I started this entry yesterday. And then I read that blog entry by Invinciblegirl, but more on that in a moment. The only problems that arose were neglectful and mean parents. Some held their kids on tight leashes (metaphorically speaking), while others did let their kids roam free. A few didn't understand to concept, and brought a five-year-old. No, recommended ages are 8-12, read the permission slip you sent to the school. But really, no harm came to anyone I know. Someone got into the copier paper, a few disgusting nose pickers, and some yelling in the hallway were as bad as it got.

When I was in retail, there was always stuff for a child to do. By the time CR was old enough to attend something like this, I was running that furniture store. He watched me talk to customers, talk on the phone, do some paperwork, and spruce up the showroom. The next few tech jobs I was surrounded by a like of young people without kids, and most of them treated CR like some weird new toy. "Hey," said the girl with the green hair, piercings, and tattoos of flames covering both arms, "there's a KID in here ... oh wow... I have heard about those. Mind if I take him to the vending machine?" It was like I brought some exotic pet that people wanted to feed. CR loved this, of course.

I always tried to make it a learning experience. Once I had him install Windows, and twice install Linux. "See the line 'time remaining?' Red Hat is a liar." I explained everything I did, and why. I taught him HTML skills he later used on NeoPets, gave him logic problems, and while I am sure 90% of what I said didn't soak in, 10% is better than 0%. He also got to meet coworkers I had been talking about. Last year, he met the guy who always acts stoned, and we had this big "don't do drugs" discussion. I mean, if God wanted my kids to take drugs, he wouldn't have sent Stoner to my office. He came in, forgot what he was saying twice, even though he was never interrupted, stared at my desk for a while, left, came back, and repeated what he started to say during the last visit, acted like I hadn't answered him, and then wandered out as I was talking. My son, all of 12 at the time, was losing it, and I knew if we made eye contact, we'd die of laughter. Sometimes you just get used to people, and you forget that they are truly odd. Once, some project manager came in, and started being all self-important about something she did, and how she needed this and that to be done immediately. I repeated, "As always, I love you to help you, but you have to make all formal work requests through my boss," and she just kept going. Then she noticed my son, and suddenly acted like I had been hiding a pit bull from her, and nervously cut her talk short, and left like she had just had a very jarring experience. "I should keep you around more often," I said. We bonded, and I showed him some adults are no better than kids, and those that were, why they were. "Bob works hard," I'd say. "Bob saves my butt every day by fixing broken systems at night during production hours. When I had systems in Frankfurt, I would have killed to have someone like Bob working nights. Instead I had an anonymous person surfing porn on my test systems."

It really made me evaluate what I did, because when you have to explain to someone with a 7th grade education that you actually do work, it builds confidence. "I build and program machines that test the Internet and make sure people can get to the Internet."

My mother forced me to go to work with my dad on about 5 occasions. He usually had his own corner office up high, and it was always neat and straight. He never spoke to me, and if I asked what he was doing, I am sure I would have gotten a glare to shut up. His coworkers were nice, but it was pretty obvious they were uneasy around him. To this day, I have no idea what he really did. All I know is that he changed companies every few years (SRI, SPC, PRC, ARACOR, Booz Allen), was in consulting, hated lobbyists, hated war and the tools of war (including guns), worked with electronic engineers but hated computers (refused to have one in the house), and only had one friend from work, whom he dropped when he stopped working there. I guess he was a "Beltway Bandit," as they are called around here, because he was one of the many consultants working for the government.

I know some people are really uncomfortable around kids. I used to be one of them. I can't speak for anyone else, but my fear used to be that kids were like some sort of wild animal that had opposable thumbs and speech capability. Their uncivilized manners excused them from being polite, so they could go right up to a fat person and go, "You are FAAAT!" I also was scared that they were fragile, and that if they got hurt, I'd be blamed. Kids to me, at that time, represented lack of control of my environment; a random seed of unpredictable behavior that would destabilize me. Of course, I don't feel that way now. I almost have a perverse wish to see kids do harmless upsetting things to snobby people, like ask inane questions, or run around, doing totally weird stuff.

Which is why I sort of understand why some people don't like "take your child to work" day. But that's a parental problem, really. I don't want to "make an example" of Invinciblegirl's post in her own blog, and her types of complaints were certainly echoed through the office yesterday, so she's not alone. Here's a breakdown of the most common arguments given by people:

Take Your Children to WorkDay? And this is supposed to be fun? For who? It's supposed to be educational. But many offices are not even reasonable. I used to work in a building we shared with the USGS, and they had posted flyers about taking your kids to work. It went something like this:

8:30a - Orientation
9:00a - Speech by director, "Values in today's Mineral services"
9:30a - Film, "The Department of Mineral Services: A History"
10:15a - Break for milk and cookies
10:30a - Speech by Howard Huseman, "Shifting Geoclimates in Modern Drilling Practices"
11:15a - Q&A session with top managers
11:45a - Lunch in the cafeteria with parent
12:15p - Films on GEOSAT, "GEOSAT 1979 Launch" and "GEOSAT Today"
1:30p - Speech by Denette Fukelstein about her newest book, "Microscopic Phrenology for Aphanitic/Phaneritic Crystalline Cataloging"
3:30p - Break for yogurt-covered pretzels, raisins, and peanut butter
3:45p - Go back to the office with parent. Speeches given by local supervisors.
5:00p - Leave normal time

I am so glad I didn't work there. Speeches? Films? Most adults can't stand this type of day, much less a kid with a 10 second attention span. Towards the date, though, apparently so many people balked, that they just opened up a huge conference room and had a TV on to various nature programs. Which is not the point, either.

My work, two years ago, opened up a HUGE conference center, and gave all the kids gift bags, and it was like a mini-carnival. They got toys, freebies, shirts, and you name it. Tables to get your kid fingerprinted, vendors had tables that explained what they did, and it was incredible. This year, we had nothing. I'm not sure which I prefer...

I'm pretty sure that the day ends up making everyone involved miserable, unless you are employed as a clown, fireman, test pilot, or someone who works in the Crayola factory. Even then, clowns have to pay attention to their audience, you can't take a kid to an on-call, let them fly a new 2.5 billion dollar plane, or let them get injured by industrial machinery.

Most of us do not have exciting jobs. I guess it depends on your attitude. Mine is pretty thrilling. It's all about problem solving, so it's like doing a word puzzle or building a model daily. I pass this on to my son, and when he's here, we have a pretty good time. The worst problem is boredom, so he plays a Game Boy during those times I have to program or something.

The fact is, your kids are not going to learn shit by taking them to work with you one day. Again, depends on how YOU see your job. If you see your job as useless shit, and that bothers you, leave. Me? There are LOTS of lessons in day-to-day stuff in my job. Usually people skills. "Don't tell someone you can't do something," I told him once, "but tell them what you CAN do. Like if they say, 'Do this report on all numbers dialed in TEST A for the last 30 days,' don't say, 'No. I don't do anything without my manager's approval!' Say, "I'd love to do those reports, so just ask my manager for approval, and I'll go ahead and add them to my list of projects.'" I show him that being friends with "lowly people" like janitors, secretaries, and admins will be a Godsend. I tell him that blowing off people like that may make you feel better than them, but it won't make you any friends. In the real world, it's not always what you know, but a lot of who you know, and who you make friends with. I explain what other people do, and why. It's not just about doing a Powerpoint, you explain why you have to do it. Tell them the truth, too. "Mommy has to do this because she has to prove that her department does important work, or else people will forget about her, stop funding, and I'll have to get another job."

Because you are not bringing your child to learn, and I'd like every single parent who is reading this and who participated in Bring a Child to Work Day to sit back and admit that the only reason you took them is to show off your kid, and because you didn't want to have to do any real fucking work today. No, I don't need to show off my kid, I want him to fully realize where the money in the house comes from. He may not grow up to be a computer programmer, but he should have memories of what I did to pass on to his kids. Because of that reasoning, I know my maternal grandfather was a carpenter, worked in demolition, and I have stories that my mother told me about him. I am working with the Internet, and I am now a part of history.

Now, in credit to some of what Invinciblegirl said, there are some parents who let their snotnosed kids run around unsupervised, annoying people, and so on. Maybe their jobs are so important that they can't pay attention to their sproglings, or they are just bad parents. But you know what? You only notice the annoying ones. Why? Because the kids, like all kids, want attention. It's programmed into them at a very basic level. Attention means they learn something, which is a basic survival tool for the human species. They need interaction, and if they don't get it from their parents, they get it elsewhere. The age range they ask for is 8-12, who have a better attention span than the younger and older. Younger, they just can't sit still, and older, they are striking for independence. But if the kid is good, quiet, and well behaved, you often never notice them. When I worked at a book store, the other manager there said kids were noisy, obnoxious, and messy. One day I took a survey. About 30 kids came in my store that day. Out of those, 2 were noisy, and 1 was messy. You didn't even notice the other 27 because they were quiet, calm, and neatly kept in tow. Now adults? Out of about 100, 20 were noisy, and 5 were messy. Who didn't put back books where they belonged? Parents.

Take Our Children to Work has this goal in mind: "Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work provides a forum for girls and boys to share their ideas about the workplace of the future, directly with the companies that will someday employ them." My dad? What did he do? Dunno. I don't consider his work very important, and since he's a bad man anyway, I don't think he has any redeeming qualities but to steal US Tax dollars so he can have a yacht. This is based on guesses of what I think he did. If he worked for the CIA to keep our country safe, I might have found it easier to forgive his being a complete jerk all my life. If he worked air traffic control, and got fired by Reagan in 1981 because his union wanted better working conditions, and spent the rest of his life bitter while smoking and drinking his way to an early death, I might have also forgiven him. Especially after naming an airport "Reagan National." But... I don't. I didn't have any way to look at the future and see what I might have become. I didn't form goals or any bond with my father. My mother was a drunken housewife, so I learned housework. I was at her "workplace" every day, and bonded with her much better.

So, why did I take my son all those years? I wanted him to know I took pride in my work. I wanted him to get lessons he wouldn't get in school (they never teach people skills of any use or value).

[Apologies to Invinciblegirl - this was not meant as a slam on her]

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000465.html
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