Beloved spent many of her formative years on a farm and knew what it was like to work hard.
I chopped firewood for my grandparents who needed a lot of it as it was the only source of heat for their house and winters got very cold in that part of Oregon.
And as was the oldest of 5 children, when both my parents went to work to support us, my next-oldest sister and I ended up taking on a sizable number of chores to keep the household running. We felt like we had the whole weight of the house on our shoulders. It was far from the truth, but that is what my sister and I had thought at the time.
When Beloved and I became adults with young kid of our own, we were concerned that because we lived in a suburb of a large city with a stay-at-home mother they might never truly have much opportunity to do hard physical labor and to see how much they could accomplish physically.
We’d seen too many examples of kids who weren’t exposed to hard work, and we believed that it may have hindered them in many ways throughout their lives. We wanted our children to have the opportunity to work hard and to feel good about themselves when they did.
So Beloved and I came up with an idea. We live on a ¼ acre property and had 3 lawns of varying sizes that needed mowing. We had an old-fashioned human-powered push mower and when I judged that each child was at “about the right size” it became their responsibility to mow the lawns.
“About the right size” was when the child would have to reach up to grab the handle and had to lean into the monster with all their might to get it moving.
When I presented the “Opportunity” to each child as they reached about the right size, they were far less than enthused. They gave their best “You’ve GOT to be kidding Dad!” look to me and frowned.
Their frowns didn’t last long though.
No, they became scowls instead when they learned that there was a job that they had to do before they could mow the lawn. You see, we have dogs, and like any well-behaved self-respecting dogs they do their business outside. On our lawns.
So I handed a pooper-scooper and bag to them along with some sage fatherly advice:
“It would be a very good idea to be sure to pick up ALL the mess first, because your situation will be MUCH worse if you begin mowing the lawn when it isn’t.”
They didn’t need to be told twice.
Once they were done with that “fun” job, the real work began.
I showed them how to safely use a push mower, then let them give it a try.
They grabbed the handle with both hands and pushed. Nothing. They pushed harder. The mower began to lean in the right direction but still didn’t move. Then they pushed with all their might and the mower began moving slowly.
I watched them for awhile, coaching and cheering them on, then went inside while keeping an eye on them from a window.
I wanted them to be able to do it all by themselves and to know that they’d done it without help.
The job took all they had, but they gave it. I can still see the proud and exhausted looks on their faces when they finished it.
The job grew easier as they grew and developed greater mental and physical strength. About the time it became too easy for Older Son, Younger Son was “about the right size”.
I took him outside, pointed to the mower, and he gave to me his best “You’ve GOT to be kidding Dad!” look and frowned.
As I began to mention the job that needed to be done before he could begin mowing, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a big grin and a knowing look on Older Son’s face…