Many thanks to the OP for posting this thread - I've found it fascinating. Iím a longtime lurker, but I couldnít resist posting
I'm no fan of coddling children (and am childfree), but 40 hours a week for a twelve year old is simply too much, IMO. At that age I'd be fine with part-time job hours (20ish or maybe a bit more), but I believe that kids should have the time to be kids and pursue creative and athletic pursuits. I also believe they should have some choice in what work tasks they do, and they should be paid minimum wage or a reasonable equivalent.
In my own case, I had no choice about what jobs I had to do when I was growing up, I was not paid, and when my work was not up to my parents' standards, I was punished. Further, I donít believe that I learned much of substantive value, even when I worked with/for my father, who built homes in his spare time. People are quite capable of acquiring new skills as adults if itís something they want to know how to do, and Iíd much prefer to take a certified class led by a professional with time out for donut breaks and questions than be rushed through learning a task and then having to do it all over again when my performance was found to be lacking. Obviously, there were other family issues in my case, but I donít agree that all childhood work (beyond household chores) is necessarily a good thing or leads to learning something positive.
To the posters who've stated that injury concerns might be overblown - I was injured while driving a tractor on our family farm when I was 16 (we spent the summers there, but did not live there) doing a relatively innocuous task, a fairly minor but tenacious injury that I've lived with ever since (I'm 41 now). I had to take over the cost of treating this injury when I left home at 19, and Iíve spent a ton of money on medical bills over the years, as it requires ongoing care and will for the rest of my life (I'm getting a treatment tomorrow, as a matter of fact). Even if a task appears relatively safe, there's always still the chance of things going wrong. If everyoneís on board, (and I include the child in this, absolutely), with regards to the activities that are being undertaken (contact sports, construction work, etc.) then itís just one of those unfortunate things we have to live with, but if the kid didnít consent to being in that situation in the first place, I think it makes things muddier. Obviously, the seriousness of the injury and the family dynamic are important factors. (In my particular case, the conditions were not unsafe, it was really just one of those things, but my quality of life and pocketbook would have been better off without it).
On another note, Iím a little suspicious that the parent in this story, who grew up with this type of work being a normal part of life, might have been used to deferring to his parents about these types of issues, and might have been obeying a parent vs. making a decision in the best interests of their own child. Where the etiquette and parenting breach occurred, IMO, was when the grandparents did not speak to their child about their plans, and the tween was not consulted with regards to how he was going to spend his summer. The real metric, as far as Iím concerned, is that the tween was ultimately unhappy about the arrangement. I agree with previous posters that some kids that age might be prone to being somewhat dramatic and non-compliant, but that doesnít mean that the tweenís feelings were of no importance.
I'm curious, OP, what does the son who did all this work think about this now, and what impact has it had on him and his relationship
with his parents? If it was a minor inconvenience that has never been repeated and has long been forgotten, then it sounds like the family dynamic is a good one, and this was just one of those things.
In any case, sorry about writing a book, but Iíve really enjoyed reading the responses, and Iíve never really thought about my own childhood labour as something that had anything to do with choice. Interesting discussion!