"Mom, I heard 44 teachers were getting laid off in our district. Are you getting laid off?"
My 17-yr-old (Amigo) asked me that a few days ago. He's a news junky of sorts, and he's heard reports of various districts' budget woes and the accompanying job losses. I reassured him that my job is secure, or as secure as any can be in this day and economic age, and he felt better. He did ask if I thought any of his teachers at the high school would be laid off, and he mentioned one by name. She's in her first year in the district, and the "last hired, first fired" policy doesn't bode well for her.
Amigo is not alone in worrying about his parents. During recent parent-teacher conferences, two families talked about how job loss has affected their families and their children. Can a ten-year-old really understand the potential for losing a home to foreclosure? No, not completely, but those kids can understand that their lives have been turned upside down by their parents job changes or job losses. I, their teacher, will see the anger and the confusion caused by the loss of control in their home lives.
Husband's job in television production is secure for now, but he also feels the added stress of layoffs in increased workload, but no increased work hours. Amigo's frequent question, "Dad, what are you doing home early?" may have hidden meanings. In Amigo's autistic manner, the interpretation might read Dad, what the heck are you thinking changing the routine? Another angle may be Dad, you're home early. Do you still have a job? In truth, Husband is home early more often because he has to work odd hours to cover stories and then has to leave work early on another day so as not to cost the station overtime.
I knew Amigo was hearing these conversations, even though we saved the most frank discussions for after he went to bed. I didn't recognize how much he internalized the troubles until he came out and asked me if my job was subject to layoff. Now, with 20-20 hindsight, I wonder if this topic was responsible for some of his recent high anxiety. I knew he felt anxious about his upcoming autism evaluation and the testing involved, and we talked through that over a Friday night fish fry to open up the conversation. But jobs? I didn't know he was worried.
It makes sense now. I'm glad I can ease his worries on this count. Many, too many parents can't do the same.