Zen and the Art of Suburban Lawn Maintenance

April 1st, 2017

I bought a lawn mower. I feel like such a grownup. Lawn care was something that my husband always took care of but now that I’m a solo home-owner, I can’t unilaterally defer the outdoor maintenance anymore. (Alas.) I lucked out this “winter” and only had to do one fifteen-minute round of driveway cleanup the entire season. But there’s just no getting around the lawn.

So I bought a mower. My yard isn’t quite big enough to justify a riding mower, but just big enough to make pushing daunting. I compromised with a swanky self-propelled push mower with an electric start. That’s right – I push a bright blue button and the thing revs up. Squeeze the bar, lean into it gently, and away we go. I’m quite smitten.

My feelings of home-owner glory lasted about thirty seconds into the first mow of the season as it immediately became painfully clearly that I don’t actually have a lawn. I have regions of interconnected weeds with a few lone blades of glass valiantly struggling to make themselves known. I bumped along the uneven terrain, breathing in the tangy scent of chopped onion grass, and loudly berating the legions of moles that have clearly taken up residence in my yard.

The navigational difficulties that I faced – winding around trees and shrubs while avoiding at least 84,000 sticks – were compounded by the assistance provided by my children. They interrupted me approximately every other pass across the yard with some new and urgent issue that demanded my immediate attention. The soccer ball had rolled under the car. A bicycle helmet needed snapping. The sidewalk chalk was out of reach on the garage shelves. Somebody wanted me to throw a softball. Somebody else desperately needed a push on the swings. Another child kept flinging tennis balls into my path while laughing hysterically (anyone care to guess the gender of that beloved offspring??)

When my ex and I first separated, I made a point of doing all the “necessary house duties” like laundry and bathroom cleaning and yardwork on days when the kids were with him so that I could give them my undivided attention when they were with me. After a while, my therapist gently informed me that this practice was ultimately unhelpful both to my own sanity and to the development of well-adjusted children. While it’s certainly important for my children to be the recipients of my love and devotion, it’s also important for them to see that I put love and devotion into other things, too. Like the mountains of leaves in the backyard or the tooth-paste encrusted sink in their bathroom.

Maintaining a home takes work. There are no magic laundry fairies that come while the kids are at dad’s house nor does a gardener stop by while I’m at work (bummer). So now I rake the leaves and mow the lawn when the kids are around, to show them that there’s work to be done and that I’m the one doing it.

This sometimes means that it takes six times as long to complete the project. My son “helped” fill some holes in the yard with topsoil this weekend. His primary contribution was swinging a garden rake around his head like a ninja and then sinking it into the ground. Not the ground where we were putting the topsoil, mind you. No, he was aerating other portions of the yard nearby with gusto. My youngest child, meanwhile lost one of her dollies in a pile of leaves while my firstborn climbed a tree. And got stuck. And needed rescuing.  Once I’d gotten everybody squared away, I returned my attention to the lawn…just as it started to rain.

So if you drive by my house and it looks like a jungle, go easy on me. I’m growing kids here, along with all the weeds.

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