Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fence Fixed... almost

Last weekend, I coerced my sons into helping with a long overdue fencing project. There were a number of reasons for pressing them into service.

1) I couldn’t do the job without assistance - I needed the help of at least one good man, or two indifferent teens.

2) My friends and neighbors all told me they would be away for the weekend - strangest thing too, every one of them gone on the same weekend!

3) Forcing the boys to suffer some manual labor would “build character.” I know this because it’s what my dad repeatedly told me when I was their age.

There we'd be, grubbing out a forty-inch tree stump with a never-sharp axe, and a shovel we continued to use long after the handle broke - when I would ask, “Dad, why can’t we just pull it out with the tractor?”

His growled reply: “It builds character! Now get to work, we haven’t got all day.” As it turns out we did have all day... and most of the next day, too.

So it was the boys and me - and I admit, I made some mistakes.

First mistake:

We started early Saturday morning.

Experts in the laws-of-nature have established that: “A teenager will be in the foulest of moods and exhibit their maximum teen angst-and-attitude between the hours of 6 am and 11 am. Do not, under any circumstance, awaken a teen before 11 a.m., particularly on the weekend!”

I broke the law… I didn’t just break it, I foolishly flaunted my disregard for it by waking two teenagers.

Second Mistake:

I unplugged them.

In order to keep the job moving, I implemented a policy prohibiting phone calls, text messages, internet alerts, or music-thingies wired to their heads.

Every idle moment would result in arms flapping and hands flailing as the boys nervously searched their pockets for missing electronics and groped about their head and neck for errant earbuds.

They were completely disoriented by this forced return to 20th century living, and they exhibited both curiosity and concern with the unfamiliar sounds and the bright light (singing birds and morning sunshine).

Third Mistake:

It was past lunch time, and we were nearly finished. I hadn’t noticed the glances the boys were exchanging, when the younger one asked, “Can we get something to eat?”

Without looking up I said, “Naw… let’s just finish up here, we’ll be done in an hour or so.”

This, of course, was in direct conflict with Section III, Article IX of the Local Teen-sters contract.

I was immediately confronted by my eldest son who, acting as union steward, presented me with a formal grievance.

Looking to my left - I saw his younger brother sitting with his back against a fence post, both hands limp on the ground at his sides, and a listless look in his eyes. I knew I had to feed them, or be faced with a wildcat strike.

I tried to bribe them with a 10% increase in wages, but even in their emaciated condition they recognized that 10% of nothing would offer little improvement to their financial position. That’s one of the problems with free labor.

I was forced to meet their demands and resolve the grievance.

After lunch one of the boys had an important appointment to keep - he assured me he had told me about it weeks before.

The other had homework that was to be completed that afternoon or he would fail the class, be spurned by college recruiters, and forced to live under my roof for the remainder of his life. Faced with this threat I temporarily suspended the project.

I’ve had to tell my wife that it’ll be a few more weeks before we can finish the fence. It will take me that long to reconsider my misguided parenting ways…and the boys need some sleep.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails