the value of work

So, how familiar are my TexasNorth peeps with the MCL Act of 1978, particularly Section 409.119? 

I’ll give you a minute.

While you’re pondering, lemme tell you a story.

Mister Ron is a farmer.  Easily in his 70s, the man can walk 40-acres of fence-line, hand-write an estimate, and be home in time to put up 500 acres of hay.  He’s also the president of the Ionia County Fair Board, an MSU graduate, and an Angus farmer.  He doesn’t mess around.

I’d tell you he can beat me in the 100-yard dash but that doesn’t really differentiate him from any other human being or land-animal now, does it?  No.

Mister Ron, his son, his nephew, and their sons have put in all of our fencing to date.  I am thankful for the decades they have added to our family time by finishing in 2 days what would take Curt years to do alone.  It’s money well spent.  This May, Mister Ron’s crew will outline the remainder of TexasNorth with high tensile fencing and the cows will literally head out to the Back 40.  (I’ve talked about our fencing before HERE.)  As he was walking the line with Curt, he told him this (brief, in true Ron Fashion) story:

I was putting up fence at the college last summer and the boys (the grandsons and great-nephews, ages 13-15) were out helping run wire and pound nails in.  I was sitting in the pick-up checking my notes when I noticed a sheriff’s cruiser pulling up alongside me. He got out and said he was following up on a couple of complaints concerning “young children out working in the hot sun.”  So I smiled and said, “Well, sure!  It’s their choice!  I’m payin’ ’em!  You want them to stay inside and do nothin’ all day?”  And then I looked at the sheriff and realized he wasn’t kidding.  It ended well, but it was not a pleasant visit.

I KNOW.  Hang on.

Now.  Back to the MCL Act 90.  I called in TexasNorth’s friend Megan, our expert witness and collaborator in all areas legal and accounting.  She monitors our blog-content for fact and mirth.  This is what she tells me and this is what I believe:

According to MCL Act 90 of 1978 Sec. 409.119 certain activities are exempt from the minimum age requirements for child labor. These exceptions include:

a) household chores,
b) newspaper delivery,
c) shoe shinning,
d) character building as part of a volunteer organization,
e) working for a parent in a family owned business
f) farming

…just to name a few. There is NO law to my knowledge that restricts a child from “working out in the sun”. That law would be unconstitutional on its face, but we’ll get to that in advanced con law.

So we are clear: he was not, absolutely and without question, breaking any laws.  No parenting laws, no legal laws, no ethical treatment of human being laws.  I just have to know, Folks.  Who the h to the ello called the cops on this man and what was in their sippy cup? Help me understand.  Tell me it was a misunderstanding so I don’t have to mourn the loss of humanity. 

Something.  Anything.  And then,

Tell me what you did for your first paycheck.


About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), a bloodhound (Hank), 2 barn cats, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

28 responses to “the value of work

  • Nancy Lee

    First job was undercover detective at Dairy Queen!! lol
    My grandparents owned it and they had someone helping themselves to cash from the drawer.. I worked a couple of days and caught the jerk… whew…. then I didn’t work again until I graduated from high school..

  • Amy L

    I started babysitting at 12 or 13 and then it never stopped from there. When I could get a “real” job I started working at an ice cream shop which was fun but no money. I’ve held more than one job at a time to pay the rent. It’s a wonder about the call to the Sheriff about kids in the sun… I’ve got nothin’ to add to that one.

  • Heather E.

    Babysitting (for cash) and then real employment—including paperwork and tax responibilites? “salad bar attendant” at the local restaurant. 🙂

  • Megan

    My first job was a start up company in the mid 80’s. I was a partner with Sara. We created four jobs in total. There were two major divisions.
    1) Recycling and
    2) Media Distribution

    Inspired by Penny Power magazine, Sara and I went door-to-door taking recyclables off the hands of the residents on Saxony Court. We then would take our bounty to the recycling center in the neighboring town where it would be weighed and we’d collect our bounty.

    We used our profits from recycling to develop the newspaper, The Saxony Court Times. It’s main focus was the goings-on of the residents of Saxony Court. Each issue featured a household that we would interview. Due to the intimate nature of our journalism it was quite a popular read. We easily sold 5 copies.

  • LoLo

    As a 9th grader, I tutored some of my dad’s geometry students. Keep in mind that my dad taught geometry to sophomores and juniors…yep, i’m a nerd. Proud of it. Sweet deal though cuz I racked up $20/hour, big money for a 15-yr-old, heck that would be big money to me now:).

  • Julie

    Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. I had been writing a blog post in my head about teaching children to work and such this week. My boys have been working with their uncle a lot for the last little bit and I feel like it is such a great thing for them.

    I started babysitting when I was 11 and got my first real job working at an ice cream shop when I was 15.

    Maybe I will get to that post…….but I have to go clean house now. boo.

  • Kim Aguilar

    This absolutely cracks me up. Suffice it to say that I think whoever it was probably should be out in the sun putting up fence, and thereby learning a bit about the value of honest work.

    My first paycheck was from working at the first drive-thru Chick-Fil-A in Temple, TX. I saved all my earnings for a much-yearned-for trip to Europe after graduation, which I happily spent when my family moved to Germany a year later.

  • Abbie

    Oh. Girl. You have just stirred something inside me call, well, rage. There would be no cop knocking down their door if they were sitting in front of a computer/video game system ALL DAY LONG. What happened to raising boys to know how to work as MEN!? Sheesh!
    On a brighter note, I worked for Big Boy as a hostess. Don’t judge.

  • Kate

    Makes sense to me. Dontcha know that kids are supposed to be coddled and protected until the day they turn 18, at which point they are to be turned out into the world, somehow fully equipped to be functioning adult members of society?

    (Have you read the Free Range Kids blog? That’s a favorite of mine; you’ll get a kick out of it too, I think. Oh, and a few ::headdesk:: moments but those are to be expected)

  • Wende

    I was nine. I created my own business cards by gluing two of my uncles together to create “blanks”. I then handed out my personal cards to all the neighbors. My best friend’s dad, bless his soul, hired me to pull weeds. His wife was not amused. But he couldn’t get his kids to do it. I think I made .50 an hour. 😀

  • Mandi

    I love and agree with Abbie’s comment. What kind of world are “we” creating, anyway?!

    I starting babysitting for neighborhood children when I was probably 12 or so, and kept that up through high school. Once I started driving, I also worked as a “go-fer” at my dad’s office. But my first “real” money came when I went off to college and started working for the after-school program for the public elementary schools.

  • Jim

    I sold newspapers off the back of my bike at the local state park, 11 yrs old made about $40 a week riding around the park having fun. At 15 sold ice off a pickup in the same park. First real job was as a park ranger in the same state park. Hey I knew it well.
    And some people are dorks as you noted, and their kids will not be great like his and yours.

  • Miss Laura

    Mary Kathryn, these are the same people who call my office on a daily basis.

    To tell us a parent yelled a swear word at their kid.

    To tell us that a child was sent to bed without dinner because he didn’t want to eat his peas.

    To tell us that a 16 year old child is having consensual, legal sex with her 17 year old boyfriend, and the parents aren’t doing anything about it.

    There’s a lot of people in the world who:
    a) don’t have enough to do
    b) want to ascribe their own dysfunction onto other people
    c) think they know what the law says about, oh, ANYTHING.

    THESE are the people who called the cops on your friends. They want to feel smart, important, and righteous. If you have any other questions about who these people are, check the comments section on any online news story.

    I had a full-time summer babysitting job when I was 13 and 14, went to work toasting buns at Wendy’s at 15, and haven’t had a moment’s rest since 🙂

  • kelly b

    My first job was as a weekend banquet server the very week I turned 16. By 16 1/2 I had added a second job as a waitress a few nights after school and Sat. afternoons. At job #2 my manager came to me one day and asked if I would wipe out the bottom of the refrigerator before my shift ended. I said sure. Then he came back to me about 5 minutes later and said he was sorry he always asked me to do “little extras” but that he knew if he asked me, that it would get done. This blew my mind for a few different reasons. I stood there in shock as I realized ….
    1. apparently other kids could be asked to do something and then NOT do it!? and
    2. they would still have a job? and
    3. no one would tell their parents? and
    4. they wouldn’t be punished in some way?
    This was not how things functioned in my house. I had a nightly chore as well as weekly extras and if they didn’t get done on time I was punished, usually grounded.
    Some years later I was a supervisor at a coffee shop and when I asked one of the kids who I worked with why not everyone liked me very much, he said it was because I was “always busting everyones balls”. I shrieked and asked what in the world he was talking about! I said, I never ask anyone to do anything they’re not supposed to, I just ask them to do what the owners have written on the task list and I ask them to do it well, isn’t that what I do? He said “yeah, it’s true, you just ask us to do what we’re supposed to and you want everyone to do it right. I guess it’s just that nobody really wants to work that hard. So they don’t like you.”
    Those were his words almost verbatim. I almost choked on my shock. I really appreciated his straightforwardness and honesty, but HOLY COW! It was one of the only times in my life I’ve truly appreciated how strict my dad was about work ethic. I also made me realize I had NO idea how other kids were raised. I think I still don’t.

    • Kim Aguilar

      Same here. At my aforementioned job at Chick-Fil-A, I was astonished to find out that I was actually good at my job and that not all other 16 year old kids “work that hard.”

  • holly

    My parents had a bookstore while I was growing up, so by age 12 I was capable of “manning the store” while dad would run to the bank or hardware store or some such errand. I remember a lot of disbelieving customers, who wouldn’t trust me ringing up their two books. Yes, at 12 I am capable of punching in numbers on a giant calculator and reading the total it tells me. I can even count the change you need back. Indeed, at age 12 a person generally knows the differences between pennies, nickles, and dimes. But HEY. if your kids still don’t know how to fry an egg or do a load of laundry at that age, that’s on YOU. (-just a little window into what ran through my precocious snot-mouthed head at age 12 when people treated me like a tiny person).

    and surely and truly, i’ll bet that first real paycheck was spent on designer jeans. liz clairborne, i believe.

  • elspethcordelia

    I was a library page starting in 7th grade. I’m not sure how, because I was 12. I made minimum wage, which was $4.25.

    Before and during that I did a lot of babysitting. A. Lot.

    When I was 16 I got a job on Saturday nights as a hostess at a local restaurant. I mostly stocked the salad bar.

  • Lia

    Dinos Delicious Yogurt @ 3.80 an hour. I got to make the homemade icecream. Strawberry Oreo was my signiture flavour.

  • MC

    When I was in 7th grade, I got picked by my music teacher to sing on a Macmillan music CD for classrooms. We got to go to a snazzy little recording studio and feel like rockstars…THEN we got paid $100!! I’ll never forget the song that goes like this: “ri-iding in my little blue truck…ri-iding in my little blue truck…ri-iding in my little blue truck…ooowaaah sings my airrrrrrrrr hornnnnnnnn.” So, was that illegal?

  • susannah

    these are great! and i too can’t believe that someone would be crazy enough to think that kids shouldn’t be working, let alone call the police about it. yikes.

    my first job was marking multiple choice history exams for my dad who is a prof. all i had to do was follow his little marking key. a a b d c etc. when i started out, i would do it for candies that he stashed in his desk drawer. later, i did it to feel smart. i would take the exam before i started marking. the goal was to beat one of his poor students who had actually attended class. not nice. not nice at all.

  • Margie

    My first job was in a toy store in Waco. Basically, around Christmas, we became one step above slave labor. I developed awful cramps in my calves because I was on my feet so many straight hours in the day, and didn’t feel a bit of sympathy when Toys R Us knocked the store, which had been a Waco institution, out of business a few years later. But the owner’s first mistake? Not buying Cabbage Patch Dolls at market the year they hit the big time because he claimed they were “poorly made.” But not so poorly made to make someone else very, very rich!

    Loved Kelly B’s comment, and also concur with Megan about the comment edit feature. Have longed for it many, many times.

  • karanutt

    My first job was babysitting at the ripe old age of 12. I had 2 regulars I babysat for. One family had 2 under the age of 4, the other family had 5 under the age of 6 with a set of 3 year-old twins one of whom had physical disabilities. I never had a problem with any of them and the parents loved me. I hear now that I wouldn’t be allowed to do that here in the fine state of New York. I think you have to be 13 to even start babysitting around here.

    I love the site free range kids but many a time I will let out a loud, “You have got to be kidding me!” When I read some of the things kids aren’t supposed to do anymore.


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