Every generation learns from the mistakes of the earlier generation and life for our children gets better each generation as they learn not to do things that cause pain and emotional discomfort. Yea…in a perfect world. Why do our children do the same, stupid things we did when we were kids? We shout with all our might, “No! Don’t do it!” And they do it anyway. “Don’t step in that!” Then, “squish!” “Don’t touch that!” Then, “burn!” “Don’t eat that!” Then, “hospital!” We tell them that the outcome of their decision will involve pain and suffering. Nonetheless, they trek on into that already parental-ly charted cave despite the parents having met the bear that lives within. Life is a Lawnmower
My daughter, an adult woman of 25 now with children of her own, has told me why she took directions in her life despite my warnings. “Daddy, sometimes I just have to experience things for myself.” To be honest, this made a lot of sense. How will the child know what hot is if he or she never feels “hot” for themselves? Learning “hot” is a good thing. Being consumed by the fire is not.
We have established the “Life is a Lawnmower” philosophy in parenting both the 25-year-old and our 9-year-old. Let me explain.
Life is like a lawnmower. When it’s cutting the grass and all is well with the world, there are no significant decisions to be made. It’s like life is just happening. There’s work ahead of the lawnmower, effort at the lawnmower and the reward of the freshly cut grass behind the lawnmower. Sometimes our lawnmower stalls out. We study the mower. We may give it a good kick. It may just need gasoline. We stop and give the lawnmower (life) what we think it needs to start running again. But, then we reach down to start the mower with our right hand and burn our left hand on the muffler. OUCH!
Life (the lawnmower) had just taught us a lesson…whatever that lesson may be. We pull back our hand and study the cause of the burn. “OH! I ain’t ever doing that again.” We adjust our position in life and try to start the mower again. Success! We have a burn and it will leave a scar to remind us of the lesson we learned from our life and we vow never to do that again.
Again, life is good. The high grass in front of us that needs cutting; fresh and level grass is behind us. Then we hit a big snag! A big stick under our lawn mower and life conks out again. We stop and say, “I can fix this all my myself.” We reach under the mower to pull the stick and the mower suddenly starts and CHOPS OFF OUR HAND! A major life event has just occurred!! Life has taught us a huge lesson and we promise ourselves, “OH! I ain’t ever doing that again.” However, unlike the burn from the muffler, this life injury has been so profound that we are now lame from the event and find it more difficult to mow the high grass in front of us on our life’s journey.
When my children are mowing along their life’s lawn, their life’s lawnmower may stop running. I offer advice and encouragement and suggest what decisions not to make to avoid a burn from the “life’s” muffler. If they are unsure and want to test things for themselves, then I usually let life do the teaching. They’ll get burned, get their scar and vow never do that again. When my children are about to reach and pull the stick out from under the lawnmower, I scream and shout and do whatever I can to to keep them from making that same mistake I did. We parents want to help our children mow their yards with their life’s lawnmower but we too find it difficult with our single remaining hand. Just like your desire, “If I could go back and know what I know now…” Though loving support and encouragement, we can “go back” and help our children live a life with fewer mistakes and challenges. Parents: keep encouraging. Kids: Keep listening.