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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008
The Big Green Lawn

One of those great father-son moments this morning.

Some time ago I added mowing the lawn to my 12 year-old's chore list. Personally I like mowing the lawn; the smell of cut grass infused with motor oil and gasoline, whipping the unruly grass into line... good times. Growing up I had 2 1/2 acres to mow and with a generous helping of trees, it was an all weekend task. Nevertheless as soon as my father let me use the pushmower, I went at it. For a 10 year-old, there are few things this side of firearms that compares with such a delightful rite of passage as the implementation of internal combustion engines and spinning metal blades (well maybe pellet guns and wasp nests.)

I don't think my 12 year-old feels the same way.

The other month he seemed flummoxed when I informed him that the lawn needed mowing. "But Pop", he objected, "I did the lawn last week!" He was even more bewildered when I told him the lawn would probably need to be mowed next week. You would think this would inspire him to start lobbying for a xeriscaped yard or to take up biology in order to craft genetically-modified grass that would stay short, but no.

This morning took the cake.

The boy is leaving this afternoon and will not be back until Monday so I informed him last night that the lawn would have to be done before he left. When he objected, I told him he could skip the chore if he would be willing to forfeit half his allowance for the week (which is the standard household penalty for not completing an assigned chore.) Nothing like the threat of taking money out of a kid's pocket in order to drive motivation. I suggested he wake bright and early so as to beat the heat.

There is sufficient morning light at about 5:20 AM. About 6:30 AM is late enough in the neighborhood to start operating power equipment, you would think a smart kid would have the mower going by that time and be done with the lawn by 7:30. However 6:30 came and went, 7:30 came went, and by 8:00 AM I informed my Sleeping Beauty that the temperature was now about 95 degrees. With some early morning belly scratching, some contemplative time in the bathroom, and a leisurly breakfast the boy was ready to work by 8:30.

We were already past the first stage, denial. That stage involved his sleeping-in through his alarm clock and the chain-gang mentality after he woke up. It only took a few minutes of mowing for the next stage, anger, to kick-in.

"It's too hot out" Well it is a little warm, but it was less so a few hours earlier.

At this stage, I get a pitcher of lemonade and proceed to a shaded bench and like a modern-day Admiral Jacky Fisher inform him that neither of us will leave until the job is finished. Lest he think that this will give him control of the situation, I tell him that I would spend the time thinking of new chores for him to do

We quickly proceeded to the bargaining stage. "Why do you have to water the lawn, it just makes the grass grow! Cannot you stop it? Please?"

Unfortunately I run out of lemonade, how to get more without deserting my post? Luckily I have a 9-year old who is more than willing to bring a fresh round of the delicious cold beverage. As a reward I allow the 9 year-old to go to the pool where he can both observe his brother and the level of my lemonade pticher while remaining cool and comfortable.

Now we head toward the stage of depression. "Why doesn't the stupid mower work? It's not my fault! You're all against me! I don't care anymore" I asked him if he checked the gas, soon the mower is up and running again. I'm running out of lemonade again.

Finally acceptance. The job is finished by 10:00 AM. Total time to finish 45 minutes of mowing? 1 1/2 hours.

Thank goodness school is starting next week, because I'm thinking my older boy needs a vacation from summer.