I Don’t Snow About That

Today’s post comes from Clyde of Mankato

The photo shows my sister Cleo at age 13 and and me at age 10.

Standard clothing and standard work for farm children in the mid 1950’s. I cannot imagine my ten-year-old and thirteen-year-old Minnesota grandchildren working like this, nor do I want to. But I do not regret this labor in my childhood. My father did not assign us this task lightly. He no doubt was off doing even harder work at the same time. My sister, I suspect, came out of her own free will to help me. We were close that way. My sister was not afraid of exercise. She became a physical education teacher. The work she and I did mattered; it contributed to the welfare of the family.

However, one of my many back issues is a disorder in my upper back which is associated with doing heavy lifting at a young age. Perhaps it is related; perhaps it is not. I promise that was heavy snow, having been pushed there by the county plow. We lived at the end of a road.

I am a bit confused about the issue of children working. I did not make my children do much work, but none of the supposed effects of not requiring children to work is evident in my mid-forties offspring. Quite the opposite in fact.

What’s your history and attitude on child labor?

33 thoughts on “I Don’t Snow About That”

  1. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing!

    When I was 14, my father asked if I wanted a car when I was 16. You bet! He just smiled, laughed (a little) and told me to get a job. Huh? I’m 14! “I know the Newspaper Editor, I’ll get you a job…” So, I’ve been working since then. Started with a 100-house paper route. Folding, stuffing them into my satchels on my bicycle, and heading out at 3:00 a.m. every morning. When I ran out of those, I’d peddle back home, stuff some more, and head back out. But, I had my car by the age of 16!

    Fun memories!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Ih honestly don’t know how old I was when I started babysitting-probably 13-14? Worked at the nursing home kitchen all through high school, coming in at 5am to fill in for the assistant cook on school snow days. I had no school, her rural road was unplowed so it all worked out.

    I’m pushing the s&h to work for cash this summer, hopefully as a math tutor. He’d be a disaster as a busboy, but he’s
    been a volunteer tutor at school for a couple years, enjoys it and I am told he is good at it.

    He’s done the shovelling here and next door, but this year I’m working at home (and need the exercise) and he is a junior getting ready to apply for college. This is the one reason I am glad our snowfall has been light.

    I’m fine with kids working, but I also see that the world has changed. If there is a paper route a 12-year-old can do on their bike, I am unaware of it. I do see people delivering the free neighborhood paper in the afternoon on foot, but I don’t know that they would appreciate a 12-year-old taking that scrap of income from them.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Working at a young age has been passed down in our family for generations. Dad would misapply Scripture to “motivate” me: “My Father has kept working until now and I keep working.” (John 5:17). So I was scrap and sweep boy on jobs for many years. It could actually be a lot of fun. Our Father’s company, which were in Fargo, installed the asbestos floor tile in Nelson Hall at Moorhead State University. Nelson is the circular dorm in the middle of the campus. Dad would bring me on site surreptitiously on Saturdays to circumvent child labor laws. My job was to round up all the scrap tile and empty boxes. The installers would cut the boxes at the top on three sides leaving a hinged side. Rather than break them down, I began folding that hinged side into another box producing a train car effect. So round and round the building I went making locomotive sounds as I collected cattle and grain “cars”. Getting the boxes into the garbage truck five floors below produced a train wreck. When cast from a window into the open air, “train cars” become leaves, very few of which landed in the bed of the truck. “I’ll pick them up! I’ll pick them up!” was the answer to the “What the (expletive deleted) are you doing?!” question. I learned.
    Since then, I have had the pleasure of toying with the work ethic and habits of my clients children. They are naturally curious about what the stranger is doing working in their home. So when it is safe to do so, I will enlist their help as scrap boy/girl, with the parent’s permission, of course. They will typically begin by grabbing one scrap of carpet each trip to the garbage bag. That doesn’t last too long as they catch on that carpet scraps aren’t that heavy and two or more at a time can be carried safely. They also learn that there is such a thing as a “make work project” as I deliberately make the cuts smaller and smaller. With siblings, there is often a race to see who can collect the most material. There may be a good indicator of future work ethic when the kid begins pulling on a long piece that I have yet to finishing cutting from the field carpet. The more enterprising children will actually help vacuum.
    Anyway, I say make ’em work.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I had a few light chores to do around the house as a kid – but I don’t recall any real consequences if I skipped out on them (I wasn’t given anything key like taking out the garbage). I started babysitting some when I was 12 or 13 and had a couple pretty steady gigs with that. Daughter has been fired up to try her hand at babysitting, starting with being a parent’s helper (helping out while the parent is still home) or shorter stints with a buddy. She took the Red Cross certification and has an eagle eye out for opportunities. Like her mother, she has a few chores to take care of – but nothing that the house relies upon as I don’t want chores to become essentially a punishment if they don’t get done. Cushy for both of us? Probably. But I mostly turned out okay, so guessing Daughter will as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I had various chores and was a good worker. When I was 11 I took the “clinkers” out of our basement and put them with the garbage cans. I mowed our lawn with a horrible old dull push mower, acquiring a hatred for lawn work. I enjoyed being a paper boy, especially when I could bring a dog along for company. As soon as I was legal for factory work (16) I worked full shifts in a silk screen processing shop each summer. Hard work. Hard and hot.

    On the whole, I am convinced my parents mismanaged that stuff. It was good that they expected me to work, and I gained from that. But my mom confiscated almost every nickle I made to put it in “your college fund.” That was discouraging, to say the least. It felt like full-time work for no pay at all. It sure didn’t encourage me to become a saver. And if I secretly blew a quarter buying candy I felt guilty about wasting money that should have gone in the college fund. This isn’t the way to show children how to manage money.

    While I think my parents bungled the issue of my work and its compensation, I remain convinced it is good for kids to work. Work is part of life. Kids should share some of the light tasks that keep a home clean and pleasant. My six-year-old grandson cheerfully sets the table for meals.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So-typical day at our house:
    Pucked up the s&h at 5:45 to go to the U for class. Picked him up at the train station to get home around 9:30. Dinner winds up around 10:15 when he starts doing the homework he did not get done during his one hour of study hall. I don’t know when he gets to bed.

    I wake him up at 6:30 to get ready for school and finish off homework/ print papers/ and head to school to tutor by around 7:45.

    He probably should be working more, but he would have to be home to do it.


  7. I am no clearer in my mind about child labor than you are, Clyde. I wasn’t asked to do very work to help my family when I was young. I’m not sure that was a good thing. However, we didn’t live on a farm and there weren’t a lot chores that where I could have engaged in extensive labor as a child at our home.

    I was asked to do a few things sure as washing and drying dishes as well as some house cleaning chores and gardening. My children were also given some chores and were not forced to do them if they didn’t do them. They usually did help us a little.

    I am against excessive use of child labor. I suppose what you did as a child might be considered excessive. However, I doesn’t seem that you or your parents saw it as excessive. I’m not sure if it was excessive if you didn’t object and your parents were not forcing you to do it.


  8. My father had a retail store. My first job in the store was stuffing statements into envelopes for 25 cents/hour. I was in late grade school, I think. At Christmas time I was hired as a gift wrapper and I worked every summer up to and including college years. Was it good for me?
    I’m not sure. But for sure it didn’t hurt me.

    I do believe it is good for kids to have home responsibilities growing up, but I also believe that the job especially for young kids is to also have the freedom and time to play, be outdoors, socialize, entertain themselves. That should be their major job. And to be a part of the family, yes…helping with managing the house is good.

    But then I don’t have children…easy for me to say.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’d say my opinions on child labor have to do with the community involved.

    In the farming community in western Iowa where I was a child. Most children lived on a farm and contributing to the work a family farm demands was the norm, so for a town kid to have housekeeping, yard and garden responsibilities was expected.

    I know for a fact that in St Paul Public schools there are children whose parents pay top dollar for their child to have a professional assist them in understanding their math homework sitting right next to a student who must first make supper for her younger siblings and get them off to bed before she can even start doing her math on her own.

    Until the inequalities children live with are addressed, I see no teaching methodology that is going to do a thing about the “achievement gap”.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. My parents could have cared less if I worked, although mom wanted me to be neat and tidy with my things. I think they both worked so hard as farm kids during game the Depression they didn’the want the same for me. They wanted me to put my efforts into academics, which I did. I baby sat from about age 12 on.

    I was the same with my children, but they both wanted jobs in high school and worked like fiends. Last week daughter put in 56 hours at her group home job in addition to doing her full time college classes. It is doable since she works overnights.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Morning all. I had light chores as a kid, but not too many. When my dad’s ship came in, we got a housekeeper two days a week and then my mom started sending the ironing out – so except for keeping my room picked up, I didn’t do much. My dad didn’t want me to get a job outside the house because he said “school was my job”.

    However, as a single mom I have reversed my upbringing. Young Adult has always had chores – more than probably anybody she knows. She still has chores, although she prefers for me to tell her what to do instead of having a few set things she always does. The most interesting thing is that she doesn’t seem to resent this or even whine about chores. When she was 14 her gym came to her to see if she wanted a job as a junior coach so she started working outside the house at an early age. She is still a coach but at a different gym.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. We bought an area rug from Pottery Barn which has on the underside a sticker that states no child labor was used in its manufacture. I is upsetting that such sticker exist and that child labor of that sort happens.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. After baby sitting for twenty-five cents and hour while I was in junior high school, I began working detasseling corn. A big, open-seated truck would make the rounds at 6AM six days a week to pick up teenagers around the city, then drop us off on a cornfield. The supervisory then assigned a mile-long row (both sides) to begin popping tassels off the top of each stalk. These stalks were a good two feet higher than we could reach, so each of us had to “walk the stalk” low enough to reach its top.

    We worked in rain or the hot humid weather. When it was hot and we wear poring sweat, popping the tassels sprayed tiny bugs all over our bodies. When it was rainy, our feet got caked in mud.

    I still view this as cheap child labor of the worst kind, but it was the best way to earn money in Ames.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. When I was single-parenting my three kids, we were very poor. I met their needs and they met their wants. All three went to work by age 12, baby sitting, raking, mowing, shoveling, and caddying. Each one had saved enough money by age 16 to buy his/her own car and pay for insuring it.

    They grew up to be very, very successful in their respective fields. I’ll always attribute this to the work ethic they had to learn in childhood even though I carry some guilt that they couldn’t just be kids.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I see nothing wrong with children having assigned chores to do. They must be age appropriate, of course, and there must be a balance; it’s important that children have time to play.

    I agree with Renee, it’s horrifying to think that child labor is still a reality for a lot of children; heartbreaking, really.


  16. I do not believe children should be forced into labor. However, I don’t think it hurts, and in fact helps, for children to do useful work that fits naturally into their lifestyle as they are growing up.

    I have a lot of thoughts on childhood in general – mainly that we now have our kids so over-organized that there is very little of the freedom to problem-solve, create, imagine, figure things out… (except on a computer) – things that they need to learn to be creative and productive adults with common sense. Everything is organized by adults – no more pick-up games in the neighborhood… It’s interesting to imagine and learn what childhood was like through the eons. John Holt, who wrote How Children Fail (and a host of other books I read when we briefly tried home-schooling our son), was an advocate for “unschooling”. Escape from Childhood. I can see I would like to expand on this in another blog post, so will stop with that for the time being. File under “don’t get me started…”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Two of my granddaughters (15 and 17) opted for finishing HS online. It’s very rigorous and wouldn’t work for irresponsible teens, but it’s considered as valid as HS at this point. These two no longer have to spend time getting ready for school, long bus rides, or having distractions at school and are getting nearly all A’s. Because they can structure their own study time, they’re also working nearly full time jobs.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My younger sister has home schooled all three of her kids – 2 are now off at college.

      When Young Adult was about 10 and we had just come from visiting them, she whined to me about why SHE couldn’t be home schooled like her cousins. I promptly replied would she like to spend all day with me and have me grading her work and making her assignments. She grew quickly quiet except for a small “never mind”. Smart child even then!

      Liked by 4 people

    3. I took a summer school early childhood class at Hamlin 1988. The teacher said that research demonstrated that children should have 45 minutes minimum a day to freely socialize, play, explore up to and including at least fifth grade. So now there are schools that have eliminated even the 15 minute recesses we had…and then, yes, after school super organized as well? The Finns have figured it out…and get high grades for their educational outcomes.

      Liked by 3 people

  17. my idea was to give my kids a break and instead i raised really great kids that dont see anything wrong with being looked after
    i screwed up.
    discipline and motivation should have been the lesson but instead they got vidiot syndrome. if your brain is occupied you are busy is poppycock but it is the theme seen too foten today.
    i started my paper route like wesew and had afternoons and sundays booked for the pre teen years. moved out at 15 and never looked back. well i kind of look back now but never mind
    i am not too concerned that my kids will be ok but hopefully i can help each of them be the best person they can be. i missed that art of the equation for them to give themselves. i guess because i am perfect in such imperceptible ways that they miss it because they are too close.
    that happens. they will discover too late they should have been paying attention. my goal is always to have them look in hindsight and realize it was there if they looked.
    its never too late.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We never allowed video games and didn’t have cable or an antennae for the TV until daughter was in high school. That said, my kids also liked being looked after, but at least they like to work hard.

      Husband and I are taking daughter, son, and Dil on our May trip, as not including them would have been unthinkable ( at least as far as they are concerned). Son speaks German so he will be useful. Daughter and son really like grand hotels and have picked out some wild places for us to stay.

      Liked by 4 people

  18. Hi–

    I was always outside helping dad anyway. I remember getting specific chores when I was maybe 10 or 12? Saturday mornings my job was to bed down the calf barn with straw from up in the loft. It wasn’t hard; drop down 6 or 8 bales, pull the strings and spread them around. But I hated doing it… still not sure why. And even when I was running the farm myself, that was the job I hated doing.
    Maybe because it never ‘stayed done’, ya know? Kinda like any sort of house keeping chore, it never stays done.

    Our kids have chores too. It’s not the same without the cows, but they can still haul out garbage or vacuum the steps and corners and put laundry away.
    One big thing we learned from a book; if you’re going to give them a job, don’t harp on them about it. ‘Haul out the garbage.’ and if they haven’t hauled out the garbage by the time they go to bed, you wake them up at 11:58 and gently remind them, ‘You said you were going haul out the garbage today…’

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! That reminds me of my dad. We were supposed to put our bicycles in the basement each evening. They weren’t allowed to stay outside, leaning against the side of our house overnight. He’d come down and wake us up and make us take those bikes in. Happened only once or twice, cause that sure made an impression, and not a pleasant one. Bikes were supposed to last a long time, and if they weren’t properly cared for, they wouldn’t, so there was no mercy.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. Those teachable moments happen when consequences happen without mom and dad involved in them. I love those moments!


  19. In general I think people of all ages should work less. For adults, a 30-hour workweek, with six or eight weeks of vacation every year, and retirement at 55. And kids should be discouraged from working before they’re sixteen, although some will want to start earning earlier if they have plans for how to spend the money.

    Maybe I should have been born in some European country where they have a more relaxed approach to working.

    Liked by 1 person

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