Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mowing the Lawn

Either I'm a genius or just really dumb-lucky. I’m not sure which. I think if I really examined my past and took an honest look at it, the answer to that question would be clear, but we don’t have time for that. Let’s just go with genius.

Here’s why I’m a genius: My two oldest boys now constantly ask me if they can mow the lawn and all three of them beg to wash the cars, and they fight over who gets to do it. You heard me.

Do I pay them? No.
Am I a genius? Obviously.
Do I know how I made this happen? Never mind about that.

OK, I’ll admit, my genius is subtle. So subtle, in fact, that even I didn’t realize what I was doing until the results made themselves clear, but the results speak for themselves. I have three sons begging to do chores.

The key to my genius was making the activities forbidden for a long time. With the car, the secret was never letting them play with the hose. At first I thought I was making the hose off limits because I didn’t want to be sprayed, and I was too lazy to get out of the way, but that’s the thing about the depth of my genius. Even I didn’t fully understand what I was doing. By keeping the hose from them, I was actually creating little minions who will do anything to be able to operate a high-pressure spray nozzle.

“Dad, can we wash the car?”
“I don’t know… will you promise to be careful with the hose, and not spray me or the house?”
“Yes, yes, yes.”
“I don’t know… are you sure you can handle it?”
“Yes, yes, yes!”
“OK, you can do it. But make sure to take turns with the hose so Number Three gets a turn. Don’t hog it.”
“OK, we will! Thanks, dad!!!”
“You’re welcome.” (smirk)

This last time they washed the car, Son Number One felt like he didn’t get enough hose time, so he asked if he could wash down the driveway after they finished the car. I said, “I guess so.” He and his younger brother cleaned out every crack in the driveway and blew all the dirt down to the street. I waited until they had it completely clean and then said, “You’ve been playing long enough. Time to turn it off.” (smirk)


The older two have just begun to mow the lawn this year, and if the hose is considered a 7 on a 10-scale of fun, the gas-powered push mower is a 200. They fight over who gets to go first.


Unlike the hose, I was keeping them away from the mower for obvious safety reasons. Mowers on their own are pretty dangerous pieces of machinery even for adults, but on top of that, I keep my lawn mower's deck set fairly high. I'm not running a golf course here, and I have found that if I leave the grass a little longer, it hides the bare spots a little better than if I cut it super-short. I would be fired as a greens keeper. Anyway, when you combine the high deck height with my boys’ propensity to relocate sticks and rocks into the lawn and leave them there, my grass and the surrounding 100-foot radius can resemble an artillery range on mow day.

Safety glasses and closed-toed shoes are mandatory. Shin guards are a good idea.

Now, I think my dislike of lawn maintenance is fairly well documented. One must look no further than my lawn itself to understand my level of enthusiasm for spending any amount of my free time taking care of something that should be able to fend for itself. Given my distain for this suburban chore, I was really looking forward to passing it off to my boys. I told my wife that I was waiting until they were big enough to handle the mower safely. That was true, but what I didn’t say was that we also needed to wait until they had a large enough overall blood volume that they can lose a few pints and still live through it. Just in case. Shin injuries can bleed like the dickens, believe me.

After watching them operate the mower the first time, I made up a few new safety rules on the fly, so to speak. The first one is no other brother is allowed within 50 feet of the guy running the mower. There was always an unofficial 25-foot shrapnel safety zone, but the first time I saw one of them spin the mower around, I extended it. They are still short enough that to get the mower up on its back wheels to spin it around, they have to tilt the push handle way down close to the ground, presenting the spectators with the full underside of the mower and its spinning blades of death. Back up a little more, boys.

The second new rule is that all mower operators that aren’t daddy should wear their baseball cups when mowing. Like I said, they’re short, and a misplaced ricocheting object that catches me in the shin might catch them in a far more important body part than just a leg bone. I want to have grandkids one day, after all. Safety first.

We boys are a funny breed. When you sit us down to tell us how dangerous an activity can be if done wrong, that only makes us want to do it more. If I told them they had to wear a full suit of armor to mow the lawn, they would be salivating to get started. So basically, I’m a genius for having boys, and since I provided the Y chromosomes, I can take full credit.

Unfortunately, as my wife reminds me frequently, that also means I have to take full credit when their male genes direct them to jump off the roof into an inflatable pool, or attempt to ride the ceiling fan.

Oh, well. I’ll take it. I’m just happy to finally be able to sit and watch the chores get done. Maybe I should start telling them it’s really dangerous to clean up their room?

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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