Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Child Labour

There is a saying which goes, “If you can’t beat them, what’s the point in having kids?” It’s funny because at times every parent has found themselves in a position where for a bleak moment it appeared the only option. You can’t give in to them when they get whiny and snotty – that’s how you end up with people like Tim Farron or Natalie Bennett – but sometimes the boundaries of parental wisdom are stretched to breaking point to come up with any other recourse than to run away and hide until the little fuckers – and you - have calmed down.

But beating is nothing to what you already did. The cruellest thing you can do to your children is to have them in the first place. They have no choice in the matter, you didn’t ask their permission and you have absolutely no idea if you will turn out to be the good parent you imagined before the sleepless nights and two decades of worry until they finally pack their red-spotted handkerchiefs and leave home... only to return a few months later, jobless, potless and bored to tears by the cruel grown-up world you thrust them into. As far as they are concerned you have condemned them to survive on the planet you wrecked, you selfish, selfish bastards.

But it needn’t be this way. You could put them up for adoption, or have them taken into the care system, or – and here’s a novel thought – you could undergo restorative justice for the crime you committed and put in the time to get them off on the right track. Don’t indulge their childish instincts for social justice and espousing any cause, it seems, that involves freely spending resources to which they have yet to contribute. If only there was a way to encourage them to pay for their own indulgences...

When I was a kid we couldn’t wait for the half-terms and the summer holidays. Weeding crops on our hands and knees, hoeing for the bigger kids, strawberry picking, stacking straw bales, potato picking and my personal favourite throughout the horse-racing year, paper-picking after meetings at Thirsk Racecourse. Dirty work, hard graft, cold and wet, sunburned at times, but – and here’s the thing - it’s true that where’s there’s muck there’s brass. And there is nothing quite the same as spending (or saving) your own money, the money you have earned, hour by back-breaking hour.

So what was so risible about Andrea Leadsom’s comments regarding fruit picking? The work ethic, the notions of effort before reward, living within your means, paying your own way and expecting nothing for nothing. These things don’t spontaneously arrive in young brains, they have to be firmly inserted. There is no need for college course, or apprenticeships or extensive awareness and sensitivity training before stepping into wellies and getting your hands dirty. You have to be cruel to be kind and cruelty begins at home; after all, you started it.

They may hate it. Good; incentive to work harder at school. They may love it, Good; forget the Diversity Studies and get on a farm management training programme. Degrees in esoteric nonsense devalue all of academia and every company can point to the battalion of degree-qualified morons who haven’t yet grasped the basic notions of timekeeping, shaving, showing willing and accepting that on company time you are supposed to be doing company work.

Warning! Racist caption alert!
Traditional Irish farm workers... in the paddy fields.

But, but, you say, my little darlings are better than that. There’s your problem. For every Internet billionaire there are billions more who haven’t two pennies to rub together. For every Alan Sugar there are millions who will never break even at the end of the month. Entrepreneurship is all well and good but none of those who made it did so without understanding the value of simple hard work. Suffer, the children? They’ll thank you for it in the end.


  1. Ah, the joys of summer holiday fruit picking at age 13 and 14. Cycle 10 miles, pick soft fruit all day for 4p per punnet, cycle another 10 miles home with either nearly or sometimes over £1 in my pocket. Early sixties when a good adult wage was only about £7 per week so a good return for the effort involved. And yes, it did develop a good work ethic.

  2. I hope I can't be tracked down or the kids will be taken away. I must confess I make the kids work for their pocket money.

    I confess I am a cruel and heartless parent.

  3. Hear! Hear!

    Great post sir, thank you.