My ten-year-old son can use the lawn mower. Over the weekend we were raking up leaves and mulching them with the mower. My wife got the mower started (amazing in itself) and was working on mulching when my son asked if he could try. He’s used the mower before, but he could never start it, which makes mulching leaves problematic, as you have to stop the mower to empty the bag every 10 feet. But she let him try anyway. He was even able to start it a couple times. But as often as not, the mower is just too hard to start.
It’s mostly the way it’s designed. It has a safety lever you have to hold down to start and operate it. Let it up and the engine stops. It (mostly) keeps anyone from doing stomething stupid like trying to clear away clogged grass under the cutting deck while it’s still running. But it also means that to start the engine you have to have one hand on the handle and the other to pull the cord. You have to have really long arms–or at least longer than a ten-year-old’s.
But he was really enthusiastic about getting to run the mower. He could do everything else just fine; he just couldn’t start it.
Finally I intervened and invented a temporary clip to hold the safety lever down while he starts it using both hands to pull the cord. He then takes off the clip, and off he goes. I wouldn’t trust all of my kids to do this, mind you. But this son is particularly sensible when it comes to machinery. The rest of the day he was careful to take the clip off once he got it started. And he finished mulching all the leaves (up to that point–leaves is an ongoing task), which was a considerable task.
My wife and I were impressed. He’s the helpful kid. The others hide when work is mentioned, and can’t wait for the task to be over. He’s pretty good most of the time about offering to help and staying with a job until it’s done. Especially if there are power tools involved.
This son also is saving up his money to buy an expensive Lego set he’s had his eye on for much of this year, and has about half of it. At his current rate of allowance he’ll be twelve before he’s got enough saved. He’s usually the first to have all his money spent. For him to have saved even half of what he needs already shows considerable discipline on his part, something that hasn’t been there before. And lately when we do offer money for odd jobs he’s the one that’s most interested and sticks with it the longest.
So we decided to offer to pay him to keep the rest of the leaves cleaned up for the next week. He was all over that. Without us saying a thing he was outside on Saturday cleaning up the previous day’s leaf-fall. He was even able to get the mower started the first time–no small feat.
I think this kid has a job next Spring if he’s still excited about lawnmowers by then. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all if I never had to mow lawns again.
More importantly, he’s starting to mature. My boy is growing up. I’m partly sad, partly excited. I think he’s going to be a incredible young man.