By The Numbers

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is not about showing kids the work

John Ketchum Apr 24, 2013

As a kid, “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” was always something I looked forward to. It was really because of the day off from school, though, as opposed to diving into the exciting world of learning how to be an English professor.

Being a single father, my dad spent most of his time at work. He would teach extra classes and even worked through summers to make sure my brother and I had everything we wanted and needed. We enjoyed the benefits upper-class kids had (private school, trips across the country, video games, etc.) while having a father who worked a middle-class job.

We asked you on our Facebook page to share some of your most memorable stories about “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.” Here are the memories you shared:

Mike Verlezza – My dad used to run the Breyer’s Ice Cream plant in Philadelphia before they closed it. If I played my cards right, I would get a half gallon of mint chocolate chip “hot” of the presses before it was hard frozen or shipped.

The freshly made ice cream with only pure ingredients (this was before Breyer’s made “frozen dairy desserts”) is still one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

Dawn Sloan Downes – My mom worked for the State of Tennessee’s Air Pollution Control division. I often went to work with her and loved it. Because we lived in a small town north of Nasville, my mom’s diverse workplace was the first place I met people who were very different from me or anyone I knew…college-educated; from countries around the world including Egypt and India; female engineers and attorneys. Those experiences opened my mind to a host of possibilities I would never have imagined otherwise and taught me that no matter where we’re from or what we look like or eat or how we dress, we have the same basic wants and needs.

Cathy Keane – I loved visiting the hospital department where my dad, a doctor, worked. There were certain things that appealed to a kid – besides nice people, that is – I was attracted to plastic and clay models of hearts, and to a small room with huge blackboards and lots of colored chalk (no doubt it had a more serious purpose than what I used it for). Of course it was always sobering and scary to see sick children around when I was there to have a good time (as I saw it). To this day, I have a mixed emotional response to the smell of hospitals – I feel at once cozy and secure, and anxious.

Selina Carreon Rodrigues – My dad was a long distance truck driver. Sometimes he would take me to the yard when he needed items or had work on his truck to get done. I loved it. My dad was gone on the road 4-5 days out of the week and is not what I would call a ‘hands on father’ but that time I had with him at the yard was always treasured. To this day, everytime I smell diesel gasoline it takes me back to spending time with my father.

Jenni Lawson – My mother and step-father were marine biologists. I spent a good amount of my childhood pushing whales back in the ocean (and swimming with them to keep them there), helping to dissect whales and sharks, going along to investigate shark attacks, caring for ill marine animals such as pelicans and even a baby pygmy sperm whale, and setting/pulling in sample nets. As their kids, we were used as cheap labor, but we loved it!

James Allgood – My dad used to work in the World Trade Center in the early ’80s. Before he took me in to work, we hit his gym, where I met Ed Koch. The rest of the day was spent playing space invaders and coloring.

Bonnie Jeanne Tibbetts – My dad took me to work in the late 1960s when I was in junior high and his secretary taught me how to type pictures using characters and spaces on the typewriter. Kept me busy all day and I thought I was so cool using a typewriter.

Mary Fragapane – I’m a professional artist, my nephew, then 13, was a budding artist so I brought him with me for NYC’s Art Around the Park festival – they stretch a canvas around Tompkins Square park in the east village and each artist is given an 8x8ft section to paint – hot and sweaty and covered in paint he turned to me and said “this is a lot harder than I thought it would be” – we had a great day, created a great piece of art . He’s in college now studying….. philosophy. I think he is probably the only member of my family who truly understands what I do.

John Lyon – Tool & Die

Calipers and micrometers, cradled by the red felt
lining the half opened drawers of the wooden toolbox that belonged to his father,
wait to measure the tolerances of parts that must work together without touching.

And his corrugated space smells of the sweet oil sliding down the bit,
smoking as metal bites into metal,
digging towards the core,
extruding the sharp helix that can tempt blood from my young fingers.

We hide behind masks, he and I,
as he draws a molten bead along the cold unparted edges,
the inscrutable panes protect our dark eyes.
We must not look directly at such couplings.

Even here, among the jagged edges and melting surfaces,
kindness lays down in the teeth.
The blade, oiled to cut softly through the angle iron
eases itself down under his sure fingers , chewing gently
through the 90º angles, 6″ at a time.

And there are no shadows here;
the cold fluorescent lights illuminate every square inch of my father’s workshop.
The only darknessess are the fears
lying beneath his clean work shirt,
beating against the pencils and rulers he carries in his breast pocket.

© 1994, John Lyon

Most days, we would see my father in the morning when he dropped us off at school and at night, when he would be too beat from a long day to really hang out with us. When he did spend time with us, it was usually proofreading (or in my case, re-writing) our essays for class.

My father’s profession, although honest, was for lack of a better word — boring.

As a kid, hanging out with my father at work didn’t mean mastering the structure of a research paper or learning the ins and outs of grammar. It meant catching the 150th Pokémon, or figuring out how to beat the last battalion on Galaga.

My father’s intentions were pure, but with ill return. He wanted me to get a general sense of the workplace; how you should dress, how you act around your bosses, etc.

While reflecting on this, I realized that this is a confusion a lot of parents may have.

They bring their children with them to work expecting it to be this huge learning experience. They (like my dad) want to show their children what they do for a living with pride, when in reality kids really don’t care.

Hanging out with my dad at work was not about finding out what he did for a living. I already knew, and wasn’t really interested in how he did this boring thing called work he talked about all the time.

It was about getting a chance to spend eight solid hours with a single father who I would literally only see for five hours on a normal day (and playing Gameboy too…that was important). 

Getting the chance to see the hard work he put into making sure that my brother and I lived a comfortable, advantaged life; that was what I really got out of spending all those hours in the library at Delta College, sitting next to my dad while he graded papers and prepared lectures. I knew he worked hard, but following him around his job all day made his hard work resonate with me.

“Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” isn’t about showing your kids how you make money.

It’s about having an excuse to spend extra time with your children. Take it from me: that extra day means a lot to them, even if it does look like all they care about is owning the next level of Halo. (Although that’s very important, too.)

Do you have stories of taking your kids to work, or being taken as a child yourself? Share them on our Facebook page.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.