The Pencil Marks

Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop. Our daughter, Jessie, received a toy corn popper for her first birthday. She had a blast pushing it over the rugs and floors of our house. With each push, colored balls would jump inside the clear plastic bubble and make popping sounds. It wasn’t the quietest toy she ever owned, but my wife, Mattie, and I loved to watch her play with it. She often pretended to vacuum or mow the grass, sometimes “working” beside me as I did the real thing. I miss those pop-filled moments.

I only need to look at the pencil marks in our doorway to see that I no longer have a toddler. According to the recent mark that Mattie etched on the white-painted door frame, Jessie, age 10, measures 5’ 1 ½.” As her body and brain grow, so does her desire for more freedom and responsibilities. Lately, she’s been asking, “Dad, can I help mow the lawn?”

Over the past months, Dad’s response has been, “No, you’re too young. I don’t want you to cut off your toes.” I realize at some point, I need to change this “No” to “Okay, but these are the rules,” though I’m not rushing it. Hey, at least I’m not telling her, “Go play with your popper.”

I’ve always push-mowed the lawn, which I view as good exercise and great for tennis conditioning. Though Jessie has offered her mowing services several times, I’d rather she focus on other responsibilities, like earning good grades, keeping her room picked up, and brushing the dog. Plus, change doesn’t come easy for me.

On the other hand, teaching Jessie to cut the grass could eventually save me time. Like all parents, it seems like each day I add more items to my To-Do list than I take off. Having extra help with some of my duties would be advantageous. It’s time to get Jessie’s perspective.

    Jessie, Age 10
    Okay, so today’s topic is when is the right age to mow the grass. I think if I can be trusted to cook food on hot burners, I should be trusted to mow the lawn. I am a dancer. Dancers use their feet and toes. I would be extra careful not to chop off my toes! I do not have a high tolerance for pain to say the least.

    Here are some of the reasons that I think I should be able to mow the lawn. Number one, my dad is aging. As he gets older, he should let me take over some of the tasks that could hurt his back. Number two, he has two torn medial menisci. One is severe! Number three, I need to know how to do it so when I am older and have a house of my own, I will not be clueless. I could give more; however, I think three is enough to make you see that I am old enough to mow. Now back to you, Dad.

I’m not sure when Jessie can go out for the school’s debate team, but I’m confident she’ll be competitive. It was pretty clever to use my knee injuries in her argument. And it’s not like she’s asking me to use a chain saw, though she tells me that “lots of boys in my class have chain sawed.” Don’t even think about it, Jessie!

Though my heart says, “There’s no rush to add mowing to Jessie’s skill set,” the pencil mark on the door frame signals change. I realize, too, that future marks will inch upward, and it’s my job as a father to keep up with them. But no matter where the pencil mark ends, I won’t forget the days when Jessie assisted me with her corn popper, even though it never collected dirt or cut a single blade of grass.

I’m not sure what the future holds for Jessie’s lawn care ambitions, but whether she is studying at her desk or cutting grass, one thing is certain ’tween daughter and dad, I love my girl and my girl loves me.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments.