Whenever I go outside to do some man work, which hasn’t been often lately, I find an eager huddle of young helpers circling my ankles. You’d think we keep these kids chained in the basement for all their enthusiasm about going outside to dig a hole.
Over the July 4th weekend, I planned on doing one caulking project to ease myself back into the world of the useful. Somehow I was able to complete this project without any of the hindrance known as little boys being helpful. For all the good the project accomplished I might as well have had truckloads of their help.
I meant to relax the rest of the weekend, so as not to lead my wife into the illusion that I would be regularly useful around the house, but we stumbled into a trees and shrubs sale at buzz-kill Home Depot.
For years, we’ve had boxwood, or dogwood, or some horrible wood-suffixed plant growing in front of our living room windows. Whichever [random noun]wood bush smells like cat pee on a summer breeze, that’s the one.
Some half-priced rose bushes were just screaming to take the whateverwood’s place. I, and more importantly, my wife, heard their cries.
On Sunday afternoon, I hitched up my big boy pants and headed out to make the switch. I was followed outside by two boys, who having missed their earlier chance to pitch in, would not be denied this opportunity to help.
The first task was to trim the urinewood so I could get at its roots. The moment I started clipping, Big Brother was all over me. “I wanna do it!” he demanded.
Buster wouldn’t be left out. “I wanna do it!”
Big Man had been made to stay in the house, and now he looked out at us through the window screen, giggling and making Dada words that certainly translated into a one-year-old’s version of “I wanna do it!”
When boys say “I wanna do it!” what they mean is: I want to use these tools to do something that is less work and more fun than what you want me to do with them.
As soon as I had instructed them what to do with the tools that their budding reservoirs of testosterone had commanded them to co-opt, they were off cutting bits off every plant in the yard except the one I had pointed them at. That one was too hard to cut. Gladiolus shoots were much easier, and proportionally more fun, to clip.
Fortunately, it only took clipping a few flowers for me to get at the roots of the shrubbery, 15 feet away. The task of picking up and carting off their clippings and mine cured them of their desire to help. Anything that resembles cleaning up will do that for boys. They found their own games to play and I dug three holes, free and clear of the burden of help.
It turned out to be a lovely afternoon.