This morning I’m sitting on my back porch enjoying my morning cup of coffee. The birds are happily singing to each other, my dog is already taking her early morning nap; it’s going to be a great day. Something keeps catching my eye though. On any other day it would probably be a great distraction but not today. Today it makes me smile and feel like I’ve made a small mark toward passing the torch forward in my family. What has caught my eye? It is the fresh mowed back lawn. Instead of its usual neat cut rows, it looks crooked today with obvious missed patches throughout, yet I don’t think it’s ever looked better.
For the past two years my son has been asking me to teach him how to mow the lawn. He has always been a hard working kid who is up to helping me out so his request wasn’t surprising. For various reasons I have put him off. He was too young to use the mower, he wasn’t strong enough, maybe next year we will give it a try. This spring a game changer happened that I wasn’t expecting. Alex’s grandfather let him mow his lawn with a real power mower. My excuses were not going to work anymore. It was time to turn the boy loose.
In hindsight I think that some of my excuses for delaying him weren’t valid. My son is young and a lawn mower is a dangerous piece of equipment, but if I was to be honest with myself the reasons were more about me than him. No matter how much I complained about never getting any help, it has always seemed to be faster to just do something myself than to wait for one of my children to step up and help me.
Here’s where the revelation hit me. As I walked behind my son, giving him instructions on how to handle the mower, keep a straight line and empty the clippings, I realized he wouldn’t learn about this responsibility if I didn’t teach him and that is a vital part of my role in our family. The next revelation was that if I kept putting him off when he asked me to teach him, because it was just more work for me, than eventually he would stop asking.
How many of us have looked at our teenagers and wondered why they will never help out around the house or shook your head at their sense of entitlement? It seems that I find more and more parents throwing their hands up in surrender to a generation that has taken egocentricity to new levels. As a parent I have struggled for answers but I find myself examining this moment with my son and wondering if we as parents aren’t responsible for some of the problem.
For most of us, our time is one of our most valuable commodities. Finding time in our busy lives grows more difficult all the time, yet it is this battle with time that I believe keeps us from making the priceless investment in our children that will hasten their growth into mature adults. Teaching is a sacrifice. If you know how to perform a task you can always do it faster. The problem is that when we stopping equipping our children to succeed, we can’t expect them to understand that a family has to work together with each of us carrying a portion of the responsibility. The end result, if we don’t slow down and take the time to teach our children when they are open to instruction, is a household that is in conflict because someone is left to carry more than they can handle.
Having been in parent mode for the past 20 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that my chief responsibility is to prepare my children for the day that their mother and I aren’t around to dictate the blow by blow moments of their lives. They have to be able to stand on their own and the more that we prepare them for life the more successful at it they will be. When a child asks us to teach them and we don’t, we fail in our mission of preparing them for life. If I child is told “not now” enough they stop asking and I contend they become the teenager who just expects everything done for them because that’s how we trained them.
So this summer, if you drive by house my lawn may look a little funny. It won’t be featured in Better Homes and Gardens. You won’t find a feature in Fine Lawns monthly. It probably is going to look a bit rough for a bit. It’s a work in progress just like the young man who is learning how to pull his own weight and contribute instead of being one more young person unable to launch into adulthood.