People Panicking Over an 11-Year-Old Mowing the WH Lawn Should Spend a Day on My Farm


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President Accepts Offer From  11-Year-Old Virginia Boy To Mow Lawn Of White House
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Only in a very privileged nation would there ever be the brouhaha that has ensued from some liberal quarters since 11-year-old entrepreneur Frank Giaccio did what millions of youngsters have done — cut grass. Admittedly, the location is worth noting since it was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., but the task is a routine one.

When I first read the story here at IJR, I wondered how anyone could take offense at such a heartwarming story of youthful ambition. I admired young Mr. Giaccio’s bravado for reaching out to the president and volunteering to cut the White House lawn. Never in my wildest imagination did I think that there would be a backlash of criticism ... because hard, dirty, and sometimes even dangerous jobs have been a part of our children’s work experience from a young age.

We live on a working farm and the tasks required to keep it running require all hands on deck — even young hands.

By 10 or 11, our kids are operating tractors and front end loaders. They use machetes to cut the weeds along fence lines. They learn to drive one of the farm pick-ups when they can reach the pedals.

Lou Ann Rieley

By 14, they are hunting in the woods by themselves and know how to kill and prepare a pig or steer they have raised to butcher. They weld, use power tools, and handle large animals.

Anthony Esolen says in “Ten Ways To Destroy The Imagination of Your Child,” “The young man sitting on a tractor for the first time will be both the child he is and the man he is going to be.”

We invest time in training them to accomplish these things safely but there is always a risk. We understand that but the risk to their emotional development to keep them sheltered from every possible danger is greater than the potential of physical harm. In our desire to shield their bodies, we have stifled their hearts.

Boys particularly need a sense of accomplishment that goes beyond the thrill of killing off imaginary enemy characters in a computer game. They need to know they have done something that matters.

Our boys know what they do is important. My sons relish in the smell of the hay field they cut as they unhook the mower from the tractor and attach the hay rake. They come in the house and wash their greasy hands in my kitchen sink after changing the hydraulic oil in the skid steer loader. I wash their grimy clothes several times to get blood and the hog smell out of them after they have castrated piglets.

Frank Giaccio has done something important and yes, possibly dangerous. After all, experts say no one under 12 should use a push mower. It is curious though that 3.5 million children yearly are injured by playing sports compared to 4,800 who are hurt with lawn mowing equipment but the safety concerns by “sanctimonious and humorless finger-wagging of nanny state progressivism” are aimed at this budding entrepreneur.

We need more young people like Frank. At 11 years old, his gumption has earned him a place in the national spotlight for one brief moment, but I bet he would have cut that grass as carefully and enthusiastically even without one second of notoriety. They do what needs to be done without fanfare, sometimes under less than ideal circumstances. That is just how kids like Frank are. I know because I raised a dozen like that.

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