South Carolina Weekend

The two little kids and I followed my husband on a business trip to South Carolina.


Whenever I see someone doing lawn chores I give a big encouraging smile and wave, especially when it is a kid.  When our older kids were young, we spent entire weekends teaching and supervising chores.  Specifically, lawn chores.  Both my husband and I thought it was important.  My husband, trained as a mechanical engineer, wanted everyone to understand the basic workings of a lawn mower, a simple small gas engine.  “Anyone can push the pedal down on a Mercedes,” he would say.  “But I want you to understand what happens when you push down on that pedal.”  He also wanted them to know how it feels to do a good job and get paid for that job.  “Anyone can push the pedal down on a Mercedes,” he would repeat.  “But I want you to be able to pay for one.” 

Of course, the kids couldn’t always get to the chores especially once school started.  So one brisk fall day I strapped our baby boy to my chest in a carrier.  I thought that my daughter, 14 months older than our boy, would just toddle about and play in the yard with us.  That didn’t fly.  She freaked out when I walked the 30 foot distance of the yard behind the lawn mower.  So I put her in a baby carrier, designed for hiking, on my back.  That meant I had one baby tied to my front and one to my back and they loved it.   
I looked a little bit like Flick, in the beginning of the movie Bug’s Life, when he was marching around with his one man band grain harvesting system.  Like Flick, I saw immense practicality in my little get-up.
I mowed and bagged and mowed and bagged.  I had to take several little breaks and sometimes it took us a couple of days, but we got the job done.  I was always a sweaty, grassy, exhausted mess but I was so proud that I had accomplished a chore for my family, my little kids had a little fresh air adventure and I had exercised my body.   
Then one day while the three of us were mowing, one of my neighbors stopped her mini van at our curb.  This particular lady was the go-to-mom in our subdivision.  She and her husband owned a successful small business and she had that suburban air of competency.  If you wanted to know what company should clean your carpet or who should take your children’s photograph or the best place to stay in Disney World, she had a definitive answer, at the ready.  
She obviously wanted to chat so I released the handle on the mower, allowing the engine to turn off.  I hated to do that because it was so hard for me to bend down and pull the cord to restart the darn thing.  I had to do a perfectly straight-back squat, hold it, and then pull the starter rope with one arm.  With one baby strapped to my chest and one wiggly toddler perched on my back, standing up again was nothing short of a miracle.  
I walked across the lawn, knowing that she was probably going to comment on how silly I looked strapped to two babies and I decided that I was OK with that.  In fact, I told myself, my hard work and ingenuity had garnered the attention of one of the well networked neighbor women.  Good for me!        
I walked up to her van with a big smile.  She rolled down the passenger side window, leaned towards me and offered, flatly, “Kip’s Lawn Service can do that for $30.”
In those few seconds, I went from feeling like a hard working entrepreneurial ant to feeling like a big dumb unsophisticated country broad.  I suddenly became intensely aware of how heavy my babies were and I could feel my green stained lawn mowing sneakers sinking into the ground.  I was going to become planted right there in the parkway if I didn’t get back into the safety of my own four bedroom colonial.  
I smiled and rambled something like, “Thanks!  Kips?  Great.  I’ll remember that!  Thanks again!  Wow, thirty dollars!  Great.  Thanks!”  Then I turned away and walked as fast as I could back to the house, abandoning the lawn mower in the middle of the yard.
Today our lawn mower is stored 400 miles away in a garage on Mullet Lake in Northern Michigan.   A couple of guys named Lino and Jim, not Kip, and their crews help us do our lawn chores.      
I like to think that we gave up the lawn chores because our lives became too busy with other activities.  And I learned that I have serious allergies to grass, weeds, most trees and pollen which helped explain my fatigue after working in the yard.  I pray that I am not being influenced by what the other over functioning, mini van driving, mommies do or don’t do.  
Regardless of the current relationship with our lawn chores, I think that all of those hours in the yard with our older kids paid off.  They seem to have a respect for money and I also think that they have a general curiosity for understanding how things work.  As for the two littlest kids, every now and then they get to rake some leaves or help plant daffodil bulbs but I guess they won’t be culling their work ethic or hearing their Dad‘s lectures about how gas engines work while bending over a lawn mower.  
I’ll have to put them to work in the laundry room and teach them the intricacies of a steam iron instead.