‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I realized the other day that children are basically interns. They share our work space (life) and learn how to do what we do (live) so that they can hit the ground running when it's time to get a real job (life).

Like interns, they learn the most by watching us do our jobs. They see how it's done in real life and learn to apply what they see. Things like "using a fork" come to mind. Like interns, we give them projects as we feel they're ready for them. They pour their own juice, they dress themselves, they make their beds. Little by little, they take over their job responsibilities - which we fine tune as they present finished projects. My son, for instance, often puts his pants on backwards. We're working on that.

In return for putting their own pants on, we give them food, shelter, clothing, and a steady paycheck of unconditional love.

Which is why it's such a drag we can't sometimes fire them.

Because, you see, they don't act like interns. You say, "please put your popsicle stick in the trash" and they look at you blankly. You find the popsicle stick in their underwear drawer. You say, "put your shoes on, it's time to go" and they respond with "why? You're always the last one out." Show me one intern you wouldn't fire for that.

There is no recourse with Human Resources. They stopped taking my calls ages ago.

Why is it so hard for kids to just do what we ask them, already? Don't they see that it is their job? I come home from work and every single thing I do is questioned.

Why do we have to eat that?
How come I have to put my own clothes away?
It's bedtime?!?! I'm not even tired. This isn't fair.
He hit me first.
She hit me first.

Or they don't say anything, but have obviously decided the request to not leave the loaf of bread on the kitchen floor was rhetorical.

It ends up being like that Nike slogan except instead of open roads and a nice typeface, there's twirling eyes and a face the color of the cherry popsicle now melting in my shoe.

Just. Do. It.


With interns, you ask them to do it and they do it. If they don't think they can do it, which is totally fine, they ask for clarification. You set them straight and they do it. Or you fire them. You say, "I'm sorry, this isn't working out. Since you are so good at making all the decisions around here, I think it's time you left and formed your own company. Have a nice afternoon."

With children, when it's time for them to leave and form their own companies, we get all nostalgic for the popsicle sticks and the wrong side around pants. We realize that part of what they were learning was how to make their own decisions. They learned how to ask questions. They developed negotiation skills.

The physical tasks we assign them are a forum for learning bigger skills. The natural consequences they encounter in their childhood workplace carry through to their adult workplace. If, for example, they leave their clean clothes on the floor, there is a possibility the cat will throw up on them.

These are life lessons. Our job is to keep those paychecks of love coming, even when our interns don't seem to want them. Our job is to show them the best things we know, so that they can figure out their own best ways of doing it.

When it comes to kids, the only pink slips should have ruffles. And maybe popsicle stains.


Cheryl said...

This is so funny and charming and sweet but not in a syrupy melted cherry popsicle way, y'know?

Lisa Ridgely said...

I love this post, Susan. Your ability to write with honesty and wit is incredible. I'm definitely bookmarking this for when I need a reminder that one day my little intern will have a company of her own.

Butch said...

Another gem.

The Holmes said...

I've sometimes wondered how the human race lasted this long.

Alexa said...


(Though I was sort of hoping this post was going to go in the direction suggested by the title--offering the solution of child internment camps. An idea whose time has surely come.)

Goon Squad Sarah said...

I know some interns that are very lucky their jobs are safe.

Trout Towers said...

Cheryl, I'm glad you know a thing or two about popsicles. You fit right in.

Lisa! Nice to see you! Your intern is adorable.

Butch, as always, thank you.

Amen, Holmes. I think it comes under "mistakes were made."

Alexa, it was implicit.

Goon Squad Sarah, Now see, you don't get to call most interns the Goon Squad. To their faces.

All Adither said...

Thank you! This post makes me feel like my family might be the tiniest bit normal.

Laggin said...


That's really all I could think of to say. But I wanted you to know I loved it.

justmakingourway said...

Love it, love it, love it. Interns. Perfect.

Tiny Dancer said...

And I thought it would get easier when they grew up! In addition to paychecks of love, they seem to need a lot of hand-holding as they form their own companies. I know my interns watched very carefully. They have mentioned the areas where they plan to do so much better!

Of course, now if they leave popsicle sticks in their underwear drawer, they have to do their own laundry!

Anonymous said...

I used to have interns who behaved like children, like, they put popsicles in my shoes (yes, I don´t wear my shoes during my office work, crazy, I know). But because I´m very mild, they always get away with it.


rudecactus said...

I dig this so much because it is so true.