I have always mowed the lawn. My husband is insanely allergic to cut grass. He wanted to be the “man” of the house and mow our lawn, but the first time he did after we bought a home, he came out looking like the soldiers in training who had just been momentarily exposed to toxic gas without a mask: eyes red and swollen shut, tears streaming down his face, nose dripping so much snot I figured a slug must have taken up residence on his upper lip. He has had to mow a few times when I was barely postpartum or on bed rest with a pregnancy, and he bought a lovely painter’s mask to do it in. It was like watching Darth Vader mow the lawn. I nearly yelled out the window, “Use the Force to cut it, not the mower!”
My lawn was getting long. So long I was I afraid to let my one-year-old outside for fear I’d lose her in the tall (crab)grass. So, l pulled out the lawnmower to give my lawn its first spring haircut. We both look much better after a trim.
When I pulled the cord to start the mower, it wouldn’t go. Not even a cough or a sputter. I continued pulling, then took out the air filter, beat it against the concrete and tried again. No go. I know when to pack it in, so I pushed it back to the shed and tried to convince myself I liked the feeling of crab grass brushing past my knees. When my husband got home that night, I informed him the lawnmower wouldn’t start and suggested we take it to a neighbor who works on small engines and pay him to get it going.
But my husband wanted to try and fix it himself. I tried my best not to laugh out loud. I was mostly successful. A small snicker may have escaped, but that was all, I swear. My husband is fabulous at many things. He’s great at spatial relations. I stopped trying to pack the car for vacations years ago because he can fit in twice the gear I can. He’s an intelligent and caring physical therapist who works really well with the geriatric population. He’s a devoted father. But, he isn’t a mechanic. Oh, he changes oil and does normal maintenance work, but beyond that is beyond him. It’s beyond me, too, so I’m not complaining or suggesting he should be able to do it.
Still my husband insisted he would be able to fix it. He at least wanted to try. I didn’t want to give him that opportunity because I knew it would take up a lot of our precious weekend hours, be unlikely to work and delay hacking into the grass for a while longer. Biting my tongue, but not happily, I told him to go ahead and try. Then I added a rather snarky, “But it’s not going to work.” Not very supportive of me.
Saturday morning came and he rolled out the lawnmower. He and my son got to work dismantling the cover, checking out the engine, replacing the air filter and changing the spark plug. I was busy swinging with the girls on the swing set. When I could hear some muttering coming from the direction of the lawnmower, I said in my best sing-song voice, “You know (neighbor) is reasonably priced, so why don’t you just give up and take it to him now?” Totally wrong thing to say.
My husband huffed over to the swing and said, “Look, why do you have to be like that? I am trying to spare our neighbor the work. I know he’s probably got a ton of mowers to work on right now. Plus, I really think I can get this.” Feeling a little chagrined, I said, “OK,” and let it be at that.
But then I spent the next little while thinking about my husband’s true motivations, and ending up feeling even worse. He really did want to spare the neighbor grief. True, I think he was somewhat motivated by not spending the money. He’s, well, frugal to put it nicely, or as my eight-year-old sometimes says, “Dad’s cheap with a capital C!” But his main motivation was his independent attitude, his desire to do something himself. And, even deeper than that, I realized, was his overarching desire to take good care of his family and not pawn that responsibility off on someone else. After realizing my husband was only trying to show us his love by fixing the lawnmower, I felt like the doggie doo-doo I knew I’d probably find hiding in the too-tall grass when I actually got around to mowing it.
So, what happened with the mower? My husband couldn’t fix it. It actually had the neighbor stumped for a while, so the problem was a complex one. We eventually borrowed a lawn mower that day, and the grass got cut. But I learned something. I should have been more understanding about my husband’s wishes. I should have encouraged him to try. What was my motivation for wanting to stop him? Mostly the things I’ve already mentioned, but, if I’m being entirely honest, I really just wanted to be right. To say, “I told you so”, even if only mentally. And that’s never healthy in any relationship.
So, whenever the desire to be “right”, without regard to anyone’s feelings rears its ugly head, I’ll think of our lawnmower. And hopefully chop that desire right off like so much knee-high crab grass.