Mollie Hemingway read the subject line for the latest message on her neighborhood mailing list with interest: “Kids Cutting Grass?”
A few years ago I’d used a post with a similar headline to find someone to do some yard work. My husband and I hired a neighborhood kid whose Dad had died the year prior after a long illness. Maybe 13 years old, he’d taken to doing yard work to raise much-needed money and have something to do.
But this email was very different. It read:
We just had a group of adorable and entrepreneurial kids (young, maybe 9-11 years old) offer to mow our grass. Not to be Scrooges in the neighborhood, but what is the general consensus on this around [the neighborhood] re: safety? They looked pretty young, and we didn’t see a parent with them supervising. I realize kids want to earn spending money, but I was interested in getting the pulse on this sort of thing. Teenagers, maybe. But these kids looked like they may be older elementary school aged (guess). We had a family member lose a couple of toes mowing while a young kid, so maybe I’m just overly sensitive.
The next email read, “For anyone whose interested, the [American Academy of Pediatrics] recommends that children be at least 12 years old before operating a push mower and 16 for a ride-on mower, along with a list of safety precautions. Just FYI.”
A link was provided to a page on the AAP web site headlined “Mowing the Lawn Can Be a Dangerous Chore.” Injury prevention tips there include: “Have anyone who uses a mower or is in the vicinity wear polycarbonate protective eyewear at all times.”
I repeat. One tip was that everyone in the vicinity of a lawn mower should be wearing polycarbonate protective eyewear at all times.
A neighbor weighed in: “That’s a good age recommendation, probably. I would also suggest not having any age kid mow if there are any pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides involved. The American Cancer Society considers those to be a risk factor for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, possibly more.”
My mouth dropped open. Was I really reading this right? My older brother and I had done lawn work from a young age growing up in Colorado. He’d mow the grass and I’d weed. We made enough money to buy music, candy and stickers. My brother kept with it long enough to save funds for college. It wasn’t just lawn mowing. Every snowstorm was an opportunity to make some money. After we shoveled the elderly next-door neighbor’s walk for free, we’d venture down the road and try to find takers.
Never had the 1980s seemed so idyllic.