The Planted Row: Chores teach important life skills

Farm Forum

Even though I don’t currently live on a farm, I feel compelled to instill in my children the same work ethic my farm family gave to me. At first, I thought it would be a challenge to give them the same number of chores a farm kid might have. However, it turns out my kids are master mess-makers, so there is always something to clean.

My son, though, is old enough that I can trust him to handle some slightly more advanced tasks than cleaning. I can tell him to mow the yard or clear the driveway and not have to watch him to make sure it gets done.

I think we’re giving him just the right amount of chores because he complains about them yet still does them.

Of course, he doesn’t see it that way: “All I am is free labor!”

When he complains, I tease him a little bit about all the good character building he’s doing and how much it costs to put a roof over his head. If he keeps complaining, I remind him that doing chores is part of being in a family.

Yet, I remember being his same age and resenting the chores I had to do. Mowing the yard was my least favorite task because in Mississippi the times of day when it is fairly cool are also the times of day when the grass is covered in dew. So it was miserably hot when the grass was dry enough to mow. We had a large yard and only had a push mower. The mower would vibrate my hands and arms so much they would itch. By the time I was done, I was exhausted, covered in sweat, and itchy from the shoulders down.

As I mowed, I used to dream of all the ways I could get out of the chore. I dreamed of someday owning a riding lawnmower, but it was unlikely my father would spend money on that luxury. So I dreamed of inventing an electromagnetic signal that would tell the grass to detach the portions of each blade above a certain height, but then I learned that’s not how physics and biology work. So I dreamed of lining the yard with short mirrors and having a series of lasers automatically burn off any grass above a certain height, but my grandfather said that sounded like a good way to start a grass fire. So I dreamed of robot lawnmowers, but frankly, the laser solution seemed more plausible to me. (As tractors now drive themselves across our fields, I realize I should have stuck with that last one.)

Before I knew it, I was old enough to think of other daydreams while mowing. They usually had long eyelashes, pretty faces and sweet voices.

Later on, in grad school I met a beautiful woman from New York, and soon after we started dating, she told me she couldn’t spend a particular afternoon with me because it was her turn to mow the yard at the house where she was renting a room.

So I said, “I’ll do it!”

It was a big yard, and yes, they only had a push mower. But I was happy I was the one mowing her yard and not some other guy. When she brought me a glass of iced tea and saw how sweaty I was on her behalf, I think she fell in love with me right then.

Later, she made all my dreams come true by marrying me and giving me a fine son who is just about the best lawn mowing solution I could ever hope for.

So when my boy is outside grumbling about mowing the yard, I can’t help but think he’s learning an important life skill – how to win a wife.