The 7-year-old with Two Jobs (And School)

Dear Free-Range Kids: Oh, and just for another bit of perspective, my husband (who did NOT grow up in the USA) at 7 years old was going to school and at the same time working 2 jobs  – cleaning/yard work early every morning, and helping sell fruit from a truck on the side of the street (busy streets – with crazy drivers!) in the afternoons. By 13 he had 2 businesses of his own, and bought himself a motorcycle! – A Reader Who Believes in Kids
Ride on! (This isn’t the guy in the story. But you get the idea.)

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22 Responses to The 7-year-old with Two Jobs (And School)

  1. No Rockefellers March 28, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    We’re certainly not raising any Rockefellers anymore… we’re raising Wussy-fellers instead. Very sad indeed.

  2. marie March 28, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Only one comment so far? I guess we’re speechless. 🙂

    Lots of stories like that in America’s history. Gold rush, westward exploration, wars, depression, shipping industry…all kinds of reasons for kids to lead productive lives EARLY. My kids don’t do nearly enough chores around the house (that’s me whining) but they will leave home able to do laundry, check oil in the car, mow the lawn, bake a cake from scratch, put dinner on the table, and with good hearts, too.

    It’s time to recommend the John Wayne movie, The Cowboys. On top of a great story about growing up, you get a fabulous cast, one of movie-dom’s best soundtracks, gorgeous scenery, and horses, too.

  3. marie March 28, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    I know the list of things my kids can do is longer than my first attempt…and I won’t attempt to dazzle you any further because there are many of you out there saying, “CHECK the oil? Heck, my kids CHANGE the oil.”

    I remember seeing a list of things that kids should be able to do when they leave home but can’t find it. I’m sure changing the oil is on it. This list isn’t what I was looking for but does have some good stuff on it. There’s another list out there that includes “write a sonnet”. I’m not posting a link to that one, no matter how lovely sonnets can be.

    My son can build a fire. My daughter would rather find an extra blanket. 🙂

  4. Cyn March 28, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    I find it incredible that I was allowed (and even encouraged) by my mother to go babysit in “stranger’s” houses (picked up ALONE by the FATHERS no less! – gasp!) by the age of 13. In many cases, I was responsible for more than one child. Three families I babysat for had FIVE children. Oh, and we lived in a large city with a much higher crime rate than where I live now. This same woman now absolutely panics when she hears I left my nearly 16-year-old ALONE at our own house in a small town for less than an hour to go to the store.

    At 16, my first real summer job I rode my bicycle to and from work ALONE (even after dark). Remember, this was in a major city. My mother dos not like my son riding his bike alone in our town — even on the bike trails and during the day. Also remember…. he has a cell phone and those didn’t exist when I was his age.

  5. dancing on thin ice March 28, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    There certainly are plenty of stories from history of what was accomplished at an early age. Our town historian may have enough stories just from our town for a talk on the scandals of the 1600s for the town’s anniversary. Some immigrants were teens when they left their parents behind to travel to the US. Would that qualify as a couple of runaway missing children?

    Ironically, this same town was mentioned in this column a few years back as an example of exaggerated risk.

  6. Marilynn March 28, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    Heck my husband who was born in the US had mulitple jobs too by a young age. Delivered news papers in Maine. on a bike all year round. His mother wouldn’t drive him unless it was below freezing. Now she looks at us like we are crazy when we let our 4 yo swing by herself in the fenced back yard.

  7. Peter March 28, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    He only had two jobs? He was lucky.

    I used to have to get up at six in the morning, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t’ mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when I got home my Dad would thrash me to sleep wi’ his belt.

    …and I turned out all right.

    But you try to tell that to the young people of today and they won’t believe you!

    (Sorry, I read that and immediately thought of the Four Yorkshiremen. No offense or anything, just made me chuckle…)

  8. Earth.W March 28, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    There are teens making a lot of money through the internet but when they out compete existing business, they can find themselves under pressure to shut down as business owners demand the Government to shut them down.

    I remember when I lived in the Chermside area, a northern suburb of Brisbane. A child of about 10 years old was selling flowers on the roadside which he grew himself at home with help of his parents. The Brisbane City Council bowed to local business and shut the boy down on the basis he didn’t have a licence to sell then refused to sell a licence to the boy’s parents.

    It sucks immeasurably that we often hear adults ridiculing and scorning children for not doing anything for themselves then do everything to stop them from doing anything.

    Seems to me that adults today hate themselves so they project themselves onto the youth of today.

  9. Papilio March 28, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    I bet that kid had no homework…

  10. Warren March 28, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    If it wasn’t for the kids willing to dive into the ponds, at the golf course, I would be out thousands, for new golfballs.

    Thank you fella’s and keep up the good work.

  11. Amanda Matthews March 28, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    @Earth.W Yep, it’s all about money. Child labor laws and mandatory school were put in place because children were taking all the jobs, and were willing to work for less. For a long time the norm was “go to school until x age, learn to do 1 thing, get a job for a business doing that 1 thing, and do that 1 thing for your entire life” because that is what was profitable for the people at the top.

    Schools were a great idea when we had no other way to educate people about anything outside of what their parents did – that 1 thing you learned was your choice, rather than simply the same thing your parents learned – but now we’ve evolved far beyond those times, and schools have not evolved… and the attitude of many people has not evolved.

    Now the internet is offering people a way to make money on their own, as well as a way to learn a variety of things. Kids are growing up knowing how to learn, despite public schools’ efforts to squash that and pigeonhole them into learning only 1 thing well enough to make money from it. Jobs are being made obsolete by technology, and those older people that only know how to do 1 job, that can’t evolve, can not survive. Businesses are dying, people can’t find jobs and so (the smart ones, at least) are figuring out ways to make money without what is traditionally considered a “job”.

    I believe that the current idea of a business and of jobs is crumbling. It is going slowly, because there are people fighting tooth and nail to keep it, but within the next few generations – as the older people who depend on the model die, as money runs out to keep failing business afloat – I think the transformation will be complete. It will stop resembling the factory model, where in order to have a “job” you must work for someone else… it will more closely resemble the days where you just did what you were good at or what you wanted to do, and everyone else did what they were good at or wanted to do, and you traded your skills. Of course it will be quite different, as Walmart, Google, etc. will still be strong, and the trading of skills will be worldwide.

    I’m looking forward to these times, I hope it happens in my lifetime, as I believe people will be much happier. I know that I, and everyone I know that has given up the idea of a “job” and just make a living doing what they enjoy, are much happier… while the people I know that can’t give up that idea, and can’t manage to get a traditional job – or are working a traditional job, and “can’t” leave it – are miserable.

  12. Crystal March 28, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    I’m only in my 20s, but I got my first full-time job at age 12. I worked a full 40 hours a week the entire summer baby-sitting 2 kids while the parents worked. I even walked/biked there completely on my own. And yes, I successfully performed the Heimlich on the little girl during that time. Since it was the 3rd time I had done it, it didn’t seem like a big deal at all.

    From then on, I ALWAYS worked full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year (often 2 or 3 jobs at a time in addition to playing sports and instruments). I truly think I wouldn’t be half as successful today if it weren’t for those jobs back then. And I wasn’t even unusual in my town!

  13. Rachel Sea March 28, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    When I was little I had several jobs at various times. At 6 I was collecting eggs for the neighbor, and working in my uncle’s coffee shop (including making espresso drinks with steam of up to 260 degrees F), at 10 I was assisting sculpture classes, and by 12 I was babysitting multiple kids between the ages of 6 months and 10 years. by the time I got my “first real job” at 15, my resume was a full page long and I already had sound work ethics. The expectation that kids will wake up one day when they are 16 or 18 or 25 years old and just know how to be responsible adults, without having practiced, is unfair to the kids, and overburdens adults with unnecessary work.

  14. lollipoplover March 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    @Warren- I think my oldest boy has made thousands braving the water traps at the golf course for used balls. Every day is like an Easter egg hunt for lost balls. He sells them year round now at a local shop where he has a display. He just discovered the Magic Eraser to polish some of the beat up balls to make them look like new. He makes $50 a week with very little effort. When school’s out he can really make some money.

    He also went to shopping with me this week and was shocked they sell pussy willow branches for $5 a bunch. We have HUGE bushes of them so I was not surprised when he asked for the pruning shears to gather up supplies. He had bunches and wreaths now, ready for sale. I have no worries about this kid and his future employment- he sees opportunities and goes for them.

  15. hineata March 28, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    @Lollipoplover – your son is lucky, what we call pussy willows are protected down here, as they stop erosion of sand dunes. Are yours some kind of tree? These are like shrubby grass.

    Like others here I started different jobs around age 10. Life isn’t over, though,if you don’t start working for money until you’re a bit older. All my kids have been helping at our church cafe since they were 7 to 11, and doing various other volunteer tasks as well, but Boy only landed his first paying job last year at age 15.

    I would have thought, though, that even if it isn’t paid, kids should have some fairly responsible roles by the time they’re fourteen or so. For example, ‘Bub’ (12) doesn’t get paid for it, but she makes lasagne and macaroni cheese from scratch to serve 40 people (she does need help draining the pasta pot). Other families would have other tasks their kids could be doing for the community at large, paid or not.

  16. Librarymomma March 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    @Marie, what a great list. Another blog I like to read is Chris Guillebeau’s The Art of Nonconformity (also the name of his book), which you can find at
    This is more for parents than kids, although it is never too early to encourage people to be self reliant.

  17. Sky March 30, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    “I remember seeing a list of things that kids should be able to do when they leave home but can’t find it. I’m sure changing the oil is on”

    Of course, it’s now illegal in the U.S. to change your oil or otherwise work on any car on the street. So if you live in an apartment or townhouse and don’t have your own garage, good luck to you putting that skill to use.

  18. pentamom March 30, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    Sky, that does make it hard, but one solution is to find a friend or relative who will allow you to do it in their garage/driveway.

  19. Donna March 30, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Changing your own oil doesn’t seem like a necessary life skill for most people to me. Unless you just like to work on cars (at which point, you’d choose to learn how to change oil), you are never going to do it. And oil changing places are readily available in most places and pretty cheap. Knowing how to check fluids and how to add them should be a required part of learning to drive (as well as learning to drive a manual transmission).

  20. Warren April 1, 2013 at 11:20 am #


    I have never understood those who find the need to change the oil in their vehicle anyway.

    By the time you buy the oil, the filter, and dispose of the oil properly, the grease, I am only saving maybe 10 bucks, doing it myself. And my time is worth alot more than that. And yes I can put a dollar amount on my time, LOL because that is how I bill my customers.

  21. hineata April 1, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    Wow, you people are lucky if it only costs ten dollars more to have the garage change your oil. Your mechanics must be working for stuff all. That said, I still don’t do it – that’s what the husband is kept for! 🙂

    Am not sure why it should be illegal to change your oil yourself – were people pouring it down the stormwater drains or something? Still, I gather in some places there you can’t hang even your washing outside to dry, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

  22. EricS April 2, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Just goes to show…AGAIN…give kids the opportunity to do things for themselves, and on their own, they will surprise those that don’t “believe”. This all starts by teaching them the true fundamentals of growing up in ANY age. Yes, what children were taught in decades past, still hold true in today’s fearful society. It actually even applies more so now than ever.