We need to reform our child labour laws. There, I said it. I know we were all thinking it anyway, but someone has to take a stand and say — children should be allowed to engage in hard labour, and especially during the summer months.
Much like Dublin Airport, I completely failed to see the summer holidays coming, and am now faced with several months of putting up with my lazy good-for-nothing kids lounging about the place.
The eldest child is fine — she was able to secure her dream job as a bobarista. Don’t bother looking up that term as I’m pretty sure she made it up, but she basically makes a kind of Asian tea at a stall in a warehouse market in the Cork docklands. Happy as I am to see her working, I am greatly saddened to see her becoming a hipster, but if that is her choice then I will just have to accept it.
The youngest two children can’t be trusted to use the toilet properly so I don’t think the food service industry would be for them, but given their low stature and tiny rat-like hands I’m sure they could spend the summer months working insulating wall cavities or defusing Civil War munitions when they surface in suburban gardens under planned kitchen extensions.
But it’s the 14-year-old who really needs to get a job. He finished school weeks ago and since then has been lounging about the place like a giant tracksuit-clad iguana. When I asked him what his plans were for the summer, he shrugged and said ‘the lads’. No idea what that means, or who ‘the lads’ are, it could be his pals or it could be a biker gang he plans on joining, I don’t really care as long as he gets out of the house.
He’s too old for summer camps, has no interest in Irish college, and with two long months still to go I think some hard labour would do him the world of good. Tragic then that the namby-pamby nanny staters behind the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 think that my enormous, moustachioed son isn’t capable of working full-time. They seem to think he could only do light work, with at least 21 days off, or as part of an approved work experience or educational programme where the work is not harmful to his health, safety or development. None of those categories scream ‘nice little earner’ to me so my plan to make him start paying rent might be some time off.
In a final insult, the so-called Protection Of Young Persons Act says he can ‘work’ in film, cultural, advertising work or sport under licences issued by the Minister for Enterprise. The single quote marks there show my utter disdain for anything which frames the arts as work. It’s bad enough that my children live in poverty because their father is a failed writer without encouraging any of them to take up the quill and follow me down this particular cul de sac.
Thankfully, he has chosen a different path, as he and the rest of the team at Lads & Co have decided to start washing cars. He showed a keen business acumen when he and the pals undertook a careful reconnaissance of the various estates in town and chose only those houses with the biggest, stupidest SUVs in the drive. Sadly, the business acumen didn’t stretch far beyond that as they failed to set a price for their service, and just rocked up to the doors and offered to wash massive vehicles for ‘whatever the person had’. A wiser head would have correctly deduced that if the householder could afford an Audi, they could afford more than the four euro average they got. That said, it might be for the best as having witnessed my son’s attempt at washing my car, I don’t want him leaving a trail of unhappy clients driving around town in their partially washed SUVs looking for him.
He arrived in the door after his first day and loudly declared that ‘his empire was rising’, and threw his eight euro in change on the table. It’s a start. Summer holidays at his age are long. He asked me at the weekend how long into his holidays he was, and raised his eyes to heaven when I said he had another two months to kill. He just happens to be at that liminal stage — halfway between boyhood and manhood, between a lifetime of working and a rapidly disappearing childhood, trapped in a long summer between school years. Another couple of years and work will be unavoidable — with all the pleasures and sorrows it brings into our lives. Maybe he can take this long summer easy. I’ll start charging rent next year instead.