I used to think it was my job to teach my kids everything they would need to know to get by in this life. Wear deodorant. Vote. Clean your vent filters. Floss. Be good to your neighbors. Stir the spaghetti noodles. Wash darks on cold. Wipe front-to-back (hey, it's important).
But I have come to believe that there are some lessons I shouldn't be too anxious to teach. Some lessons a kid needs to really want. They need to ask, and be told no, and no and no, until it becomes forbidden fruit, and hence something they desire with all their heart. And maybe I shouldn't even be the one to teach them.
Enter: The Lawn Mower. I grew up in the era of boys-do-the-yard-work, girls-do-the-housework. I remember wanting to mow the lawn desperately. There seemed something akin to driving a car when you stood behind a big rumbling motor with unseen slashing blades. It held danger and a sense of power. Then there was the amazing magic-wand-like moment as the mower passed over uneven clumps of grass, some with stocks of seeds, making order out of chaos, the perfect lines of evenly trimmed grass falling in order behind you as you plowed down wild tufts of green.
The girls have been asking to mow for a while. I said no for a while, and then, realizing I had started the boys out at their ages, I decided it was time. The first week, I took the girls out, gave them goggles and safety instructions, and had them take turns with passes. The next week, I called Adam in on his lawn mowing day.
"Adam, for your job today you are going to teach Tessa to mow the lawn."
(-insert 2 minutes of teenage complaining, here-)
"Dude, you are training your replacement. The sooner she learns well, the sooner you can pass the torch."
A look of confusion, followed by a stammering, "but I...", followed by that glorious look of "Wait, I'm about to get away with something here, and my mom is in cahoots with me. Yes!", all traveled across his face in about 4 seconds.
They were the easiest lessons I never taught.