Monday, May 23, 2011

Great Kids

Sometimes, my children surprise me.  They're very good boys, but occasionally we do butt heads.  As Eddie has become a moody teen, he and I bicker more than ever.  But even Luke, sweet little Luke, has begun to cop some 'tude as he gets older.  If it is late in the evening, and especially if the boys are plugged into Ipods or computer games, they are foul little beasties to get up to bed.

So it is especially nice when one of my sons surprises me with an act of true kindness.

Yesterday morning, I made a deal with the boys.  It was Sunday, and Becky and I had a very full day planned.  From 9am to 4pm, she and I had to be at the distillery for the second day of the Farm Tours.  The Farm Tours are a twice-a-year affair where we open the distillery on the weekend for public tours.  As Becky does production, I perform non-stop tours and people come and go through the distillery.  It is an exhausting eight or nine hours on our feet.

Knowing this was going to be a long day, I also knew that I needed to get the yard mowed.  And there was church service also at 8am.  We had a lot going on.

Not wanting to go to church alone, I made the boys a deal that I figured they couldn't (or wouldn't) refuse:

"OK, boys, I tell you what.  You can either go to church with me at 8am, or you can mow the entire yard.  You choose."

Luke actually took a second to think about it, and in his usual fashion, he started negotiating the terms.

"You mean," he said, "like the whole yard, or just my part?"

"Your part," I replied, "unless Eddie goes to church, then you do the whole yard."

"We'll go to church!" they both replied.

And so we did.  The boys very obediently sat through the entire service without complaint.

After church, Becky and I went to the distillery for a full day of work.  It was a very long Sunday after the same tours on the previous day.  Several hundred visitors came through the distillery while Becky and I worked through the distillation and tours.

So I was very tired when I drove into the driveway on Saturday at 5pm and remembered that, oh yes, the grass was very long and needed to be mowed.  Crap.  I really just wanted a shower and to chill, but there was rain in the forecast for the rest of the week, and presently, it was sunny.

I went inside to grab some sunscreen, where I met Luke sitting at the kitchen table with his Ipod.

"Hi, Dad," he chirped.

"Hey, Luke.  I need to go mow."

"I'll help you if you want," he said.

"No, you don't have to do that," I said, "we had our deal, and you went to church.  You don't need to mow."

"That's OK.  I'll help you anyway.  I'm kinda bored."

Wow.  What a kid.  And what a gift to his tired old dad.

In the Jewish culture, they have a word for this, one I particularly like.  It's called a "mitzvah".  Literally, it means "a good deed", but it is a little bit more than that.  It's a good deed without the expectation of a return.  Or as I like to think of it, it's the exact opposite of a sin.  And so, Luke with that little gesture, earned himself a ton of brownie points with me.

Luke began mowing the flat parts of the yard, his usual areas:  the front, the side by the garage, and the side by the garden.  While he mowed, I trimmed the edges and did some much needed weeding.  Then, when he was done, I took the mower from him and told him thanks and sent him to go inside.  But he paused a minute and came back and said, "Dad, I can do more if you want."

And so he then did the back yard too.  Wow, what a kid!

All he left me were some of the hilly parts and the back yard in the woody area.  I was happy to do just that small bit.

Yes, sometimes, our kids are rotten and spoiled and selfish.  But sometimes, they come out of nowhere and really let you know maybe, just maybe, you're not screwing them up too badly with your awful parenting.

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