Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

"What's the matter, are you paralyzed from the neck up, or are you hurt?" - Jack Colton, Romancing the Stone

Alaska in spring. Somebody's gotta clean this place up.

Today we were driving back from the store. As we rounded the corner through a mountainous, pastoral scene unavailable most places jumped out in front of us. The Boy remarked, “The ground is back.”

The ground is finally back. After seven months, it finally returned. Our front yard will be snow free this week (if not the next) so the ground will finally be back at our house in Fairbanks after seven months of a snowy blanket.

Our primary focus this weekend was picking up the junk that accumulated in our yard over the course of seven months. You’d be surprised at how much “stuff” shows up on the ground, even when the only people leaving trash on the ground is us. It’s just not a walk in the park to pick up your own junk when it’s -40ºF, so your standards change a bit. That gum wrapper that fell out of your car? It’ll be there on May 7, 2006 when you finally decide to pick it up.

The Mrs. and I talked and decided that this task was well in the range of ability for The Boy, and this would be a good chance for him to learn the value of work, especially work well done. To look upon a clean lawn and driveway should be reward enough for the work he’d be doing. Right?

This, however, was more of a chore than you might normally imagine. The Mrs. took first watch over The Boy. You see, it was our idea that The Boy should be forced to pick up the junk. Did he put all of it down? Not a chance. But he was gonna pick it up.

I was cutting up the last of the wood that we had for this winter. I told The Mrs. that it would take about 10 minutes. It took 30. By the time I was done and had put the chainsaw up, The Mrs. and The Boy had moved to the front of our woodshed in their quest to make it look like a family of polite people (rather than a family of messy badgers) lived there.

I noticed right away that there was a bit of distance between The Mrs. and The Boy. It seemed that he was on the list that The Mrs. keeps of people who are “in trouble.” I thought this must be The Mrs. over-reacting. I joined the crew.

For whatever reason, it seems that little pieces of paper are entirely invisible to a five year old. The Mrs. had gotten to the point of feeling like the best way to get through to The Boy involved a the icy clutch of her fingers ‘round his neck. I thought she was overreacting. As usual, I was wrong.

At first, I attempted to work with The Boy. Teamwork is good, right? Well, to The Boy, teamwork can be spelled with an “I,” as in I don’t work. Not so good. Helping The Boy meant doing all his work for him. Soon enough, I became convinced that the best way to get through to The Boy involved the icy clutch of my fingers ‘round his neck.

We worked through this. Well, when I say we worked through this, I mean that The Boy worked through this. He picked up every bit of trash on the ground. There was crying, there was yelling, there was an emotional reconciliation.

Was picking the trash up off the ground important to him? Yes. It was to teach him about work, and how hard work was its own reward. This was the first point.

Second, I didn’t have to do it. I guess that negates the first part, but, hey, I’m human too. If I get this right, I won’t have to pick up trash in spring for another fifteen years.


Blogger SusanE said...

Just wait in 15 years he'll tell this story very differently then it really happened. There are a few stories that are retold in my house by my, now adult, children that are only remotely similar to the reality. If Children's Aid heard their telling, I'd never be able to be near kids again.

5:18 AM  
Blogger HP said...

Funny story. Along the same lines, my next door neighbor was teaching his 4th grade son to cut the grass today. Similar outcome....and if done properly, the neighbor won't have to cut the grass anymore.

Reason to have kids??? Just maybe...

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I taught the kids how to pick up olives off the patio this year, and ended up paying a penny a piece. My greedy 8 year old was in the tree collecting pre-fallen olives which I felt was a victory. I did pay over 150 dollars, but it was worth it. I celebrated by having the main problem tree cut down, kind of my own "Welcome to California".

7:14 PM  
Blogger Woofwoof said...

In the summer you chop wood. In the autumn you chop wood. In the winter you chop some more wood. Then finally spring arrives and you can see the ground, you go out and pick up trash.

Sheesh... Don't you ever rest? I'm with The Boy. We go on strike.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Al said...

Why pick up gum wrappers? Most are made of recycled paper and are designed to compose just like leaves. It sounds like all those jets are dropping their gum wrappers on you guys!

One day the Boy will ask if you work for free since a job well done is its own reward...be prepared.

6:59 PM  
Blogger John said...

Yup. Though this one seems to look on the sunny side of life, I imagine that The Mrs. would be somewhere between Hitler and Stalin in the telling. Me? Attila.

Short term pain, long term sipping beer in the hammock while the work gets done.

Yay working ahead!! Did you burn the olive tree? If not, can I have the wood?

After I read your comment, I realized I had gone a day without chopping wood. So, I (really) went and changed up my life.

I just took a sledge hammer and a wedge and split wood.

Strike? Nah. The Mrs. would break that nonsense up in a heartbeat. She's got The Force.

Dunno. Good point. I could have let them sit, but, you know, The Boy is close to the ground.

Hey, I work for free all the time! I often have to open tasty treats for him.

After I get arthritis, though, I can see him dangling the medicine bottle with the child proof cap . . . "Remember that Fruit Roll-Up, Old Man???"

8:57 PM  
Blogger shawnkielty said...

Nice post -- here in the desert, it takes about 150 years for a gum wrapper to decompose, because they only get wet once every few years -- but you don't have to worry about it -- by then the gum wrapper will have blown somewhere where it can decompose naturally. I pick them up anyway -- along with the huge amount of beer bottles and cans that seem to accidently fall from open car windows.

I love to cut, chop, split, and stack -- maybe I should go to Alaska.

11:04 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Ahhh, springtime in Fairbanks. We finished cleaning our lawn and driveway this weekend, too.

I ended up doing all the yardwork and most of the housework in my family growing up, so it IS possible to train them young and relax while they do it. And I'm not particularly bitter about it, either. Didn't hurt me one bit. I still clean my parents' house and mow their lawn occasionally.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:11 PM  
Blogger John said...

Too true! Accidently fall . . . hmmm.

If you like to cut, chop, split, stack . . . Fairbanks is for you. Trees as far as the eye can see. Oh, and that big mountain.

See, it's just that spirit I'm talking about. I want him to help out . . . and only hate me a little.

8:22 PM  

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