by Michael Pearl from No Greater Joy – Jumping Ship Part 2
Editor’s note: This really makes me question the wisdom of Michael Pearl. While having a thirteen year old run the tractor under the right supervision is fine, the younger child is throw into something she should not be going. Having a three year old handle a debarking tool seems like a recipe for disaster or at least a visit to the ER for cut little fingers. First he advocates letting the children do the hard labor and then reverses himself to say don’t treat the kids like domestic servants followed by some clap-trap about teaching them to drive the boat and navigate. When has he ever allowed any of his own children to do that before leaving home? Like never. Remembering the tale of his daughter who couldn’t relax and pick her own clothes out or enjoy her husband wanting her to pick out and buy nice clothes.
Now, you may think that this is just an old man reminiscing. Maybe so, but listen carefully to his musings, for I am going someplace very important to you with this line of thought. Today I took Laura Rose, not yet three, down to the sawmill to help me debark some trees in preparation for sawing. She picked up the tool and grunted dutifully while she dug at the bark. When a slab of bark broke loose and fell away from the log, she was delighted with her power. She was helping Big Papa. She was important. She is not a passenger on a pleasure liner. She is part of the crew. When she comes into the house, Deb doesn’t send her into the playroom. She is not even interested in the big box of toys that we keep for the kids. She wants to put clothes in the laundry, wash the dishes, mop the floor, fix dinner for Big Papa, or any constructive chore that Deb is doing at the time.
I have a young man thirteen years old who comes over and works with me outdoors. Like most thirteen-year-olds, he doesn’t actually crave work. He quickly tires of any job that is hard and boring, but if he is working beside me, he will do the same difficult job all day long and think he is having fun. He is a skinny, awkward boy, going through puberty and imagining all the wonderful things that await him. Just the other day he said, “I want to get me a wife.” He said it without any inhibition, just as he would tell me he wanted to get a new bicycle. There was a hungry look in his eyes and an eagerness in his changing voice.
He loves my Kubota tractor, especially when operating the front-end loader. While he is doing manual work, he keeps his eye on the tractor. If I let him drive it about once every hour to go get a tool or to move a log, I can keep him doing the boring chores with enthusiasm. He loves to operate a chain saw, weed eater, or any power tool. He has been eyeing my red truck—no, not yet! He is too uncoordinated.
You can’t just use kids as a source of labor. They will not be happy being nothing more than domestic servants onboard your ship. You must, from time to time, with some supervision, let them do the navigation and pilot the ship. I keep the kids in my charge on the cutting edge of experience, never allowing things to stay boring for long. If we are moving sawdust, and I make him do the shoveling but don’t allow him to drive the tractor, he will soon become dissatisfied. But, if he gets to dump the bucket of sawdust after loading it, he is content to rake the sawdust out from under the sawmill and put it in the front-end loader, just so he can drive the tractor a mere 150 feet to dump it. You can’t just drive kids; you have to let them steer. Even Laura Rose thinks she is driving the tractor while sitting on my lap with her hands on the wheel.
There are many other things kids can do besides driving a tractor. Give a boy the tools and knowledge to disassemble electronics, and, hopefully, someday reassemble them, and he will love the ship he is on. Give a teenager a job that pays money, and then let him spend it as he pleases, and he will not be leaning over the bow envying others. If you keep your kids on the cutting edge of experience, they will feel sorry for those who do not have their captain and are not on their ship. They will never jump ship. It’s the greatest!