Help! I just bought a lawn edger.
I blame the pandemic, which has resulted in so many of us spending more time at home and in our yard. I’m requesting help because I’ve always associated lawn power tools with old-timey dads. Specifically, one of my childhood neighbor dads who would regularly spend hours perfecting his yard with a host of noisy contraptions.
Am I becoming that dad? But I’m a new-timey dad who spent many years as an at-home caregiver!
Maybe that doesn’t matter when it comes to yard work. Granted, I have seen a growing number of moms who mow their lawn. But dads seem to remain the vast majority of mowers, for whatever reasons. As I thought about these yard dads, a continuum of three types emerged in my mind:
1. Speedy, Low-Tech Yard Dad
This dad tends to be young, have very young children, and many domestic duties. The result is little time (and money) for yard care. He mows his lawn quickly, sometimes not even bagging the grass clippings. If he even has time to rake or sweep anything, it will be with an actual rake or broom, not a leaf blower.
During all yard work, his goal is to race back to his family responsibilities as swiftly as possible. For this dad, the children growing in the house are more important than the weeds growing in the yard. If these yard dads were to post a sign, it might read “My Yard Looks Good Enough for Now.”
2. Patient, Team-Effort Greenskeeper Father
This dad tends to be middle-aged and have tweens or teens. He has somehow managed to coax his reluctant children — usually boys, but sometimes girls — into joining him in the yard work. This dad was more common in previous generations, as there has been a decline of chores in today’s culture in favor of more schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Hence, his achievement is quite impressive. In rare cases, you may not even see this dad in his yard. The kids work all by themselves!
The appearance of this dad’s yard is usually acceptable but not perfect. Part of the reason is that he refuses to invest in gadgets like electric trimmers, for that would make his kids’ chores too easy. If the children were to post a sign, it might read “Our Yard Passed Our Father’s Inspection.”
3. Intense, Shed-of-Tools Lord of Landscaping
This dad tends to be older, and as teens move out of his house, power tools move into his yard. He glories in high-tech mowers, corded weed whackers, high-decibel leaf blowers, and (ahem) power edgers. The accumulation of these toys leads him to an obsessive delusion: “I need a shed for all these tools.”
The appearance of this dad’s yard is usually immaculate. As he dons his goggles and traipses in and out of his shed with myriad devices, he is more like a part-time landscaper than a lawn-mowing father. He spends so many hours in the yard that passersby sometimes wonder if he has been banished there by his wife. If these types of yard dads were to post a sign, it might read “My Yard Could Kick Your Yard’s Butt.”
The Yard Dads of My Life
Which brings me back to that edger I bought. While I hope to never own a shed, I have noticed my number of power tools and yard hours increasing. Reasons include my body starting to age and my nest starting to empty. But I have also noticed a new reason: nostalgia.
My own father was a Team-Effort Yard Dad, and I mowed my childhood lawn countless times as a teen. As a result, the muscle memory of yard work makes me feel young again. Until it makes me feel old again.
In a larger sense, taking good care of a lawn may simply be an aging dad’s way of transferring all the care-giving energy he used to spend on his growing children. Eventually, children no longer need intense parenting, but the yard forever demands — and rewards — attention.