Seeing your job — through your kid’s eyes

Today it was “Take Your Sick Kid to Work Day.” What—you weren’t notified? Hmm, maybe I was the only one who got the memo…

It all started at bedtime last night. We let the boys stay up a little later to watch “American Pickers,” which we had recorded on our DVR, with us. This may seem weird to you, but my boys LOVE the Pickers. Last night we watched the episode where William Shatner and his wife hired Mike and Frank to help them decorate their country home, and the boys couldn’t miss picking history! (Yes, we are geeks like that.)

So after Pickers concluded (SPOILER: “Bill” Shatner and his wife LOVED how it turned out), I headed up with the boys to get them into bed. I noticed Boy #2 was moving kind of slow, but he does that sometimes. And as he was climbing into his loft, he said, “My stomach hurts.”

I think I’ve told you before about Boy #2’s tendency toward hypochondriachism: he’s either got a broken leg or can’t see out of his left eye or has a sore on his tongue that prevents him from speaking or eating… It’s okay; I get the “middle child” thing. And he has legitimate issues that really do warrant him a license to complain. But all of his maladies have caused me to tune out once I hear the “Moooom” whining start. It’s bad, I know, but most of the time he’s blowing little scrapes or twinges way out of proportion.

Fortunately, my mother’s instinct kicked in last night when he said, “I think I’m going to throw up!” Instead of holding him off with “I’ll check on you in a few minutes and see how you’re feeling,” I immediately went and got the big red bowl. The one we reserve for either puke or popcorn. As soon as I handed it to him, he made good on his threat. Out came supper and what appeared to be an entire aisle full of Valentine candy. And yes, thanks to the Fun Dip, some of it was electric blue.

So this morning, he had to stay home from school, and I planned to stay home with him all day. But after  noting that he hadn’t a fever and didn’t really look sick, and hearing him describe the two sugar cookies with a huge blob of frosting in between that he ate at school along with much of the candy he received in his Valentines, I reasoned that it was more likely a case of a Valentine hangover and less likely a case of the flu. With deadlines hanging over my head, I asked Boy #2 if he wanted to come to work with me at the newspaper.

We packed a bag with a pillow and blanket so he could lounge in a little cubbyhole behind my desk and play his Nintendo DS or read a book. I put some change in a baggie for him so he could hit the vending machines if his stomach started feeling better. He was ready for what he thought was going to be an exciting day.

The parking ramp was a source of intrigue, as was the elevator we took to get on the skywalk. Unfortunately, this was probably the highlight of his day.

When we got to my desk, which kind of sits out in the middle, I don’t think he was too impressed. “Why don’t you have an office like that?” he asked as we walked past the editor and vice-president’s office.

He watched in anticipation as I started my computer, opened my email and other programs, and immediately encountered a technical glitch. His eyes glazed over as I emailed our tech director, talked to another copy editor, and finally managed to open the program I needed. Whew! A half hour’s work done.

Boy #2 was not impressed.

“When are you going to actually edit something?” he asked as I worked on typing in content for our Kids and Family Events page of Datebook.

“In a little bit,” I told him.

“Uhhhhhhh!” he said under his breath as he plunked on the floor and played his DS for a while.

Later on, I opened a story and began to copy edit, so I told him that I was “finally” editing something. He sprang onto the chair beside my desk and put his chin in his hands as his elbows rested on my desk. He stared at my computer screen, and he was so close our shoulders were touching.

I’m pretty sure he was expecting something to happen — anything to happen. I mean, editing sounded kind of exciting, didn’t it?

“Can I help you find things that are wrong?” he asked.

“Well, I already read through it, and there’s really nothing wrong.”

He looked disappointed.

“Ooh! Here are a couple periods that don’t need to be there.”

Still not impressed.

Granted, we were editing a review of a local restaurant, not hard-hitting news, so I’m not sure how exciting it could really get, but I’m pretty sure Boy #2 expected more.

He did seem to perk up when I let him “help” me write the headline for the story: “Find fresh, inventive pizzas at Gusto.” “Can we read it in the paper on Thursday?” he asked. I assured him we could. My cool factor went up just a smidge.

Later on when my boss came by and asked him if he was having fun, he answered with the “so/so” hand gesture. Yeah, he wasn’t going to lie, but at least he was tactful.

He didn’t get the answering emails, meetings and writing I had to do for the few hours we were there. “I thought you were an editor,” he said. “Why aren’t you editing?”

I believe his favorite things about my job are the vending machine where he can order Bugles and the popcorn cart in the newsroom (which wasn’t even full of popcorn at the time). Oh, and the fact that I can take the skywalk to Burger King. (Isn’t that all anyone wants in a job?)

I feel bad, though, that I demystified journalism for him. I didn’t mean to make it seem boring. I don’t think of it as boring. But I guess when you’re a 9-year-old boy, you expect something with a little more flash and a little less spell-check. When you’re a 9-year-old boy, boring is bad. But for me, boring means I met my deadlines and managed not to screw anything up.

I’m guessing that the next time it’s “Take Your Sick Kid to Work Day,” he’s going to ask if he can go with his dad instead.

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