Learning not to set the bar too high

AS A mother I've learned not to set the bar too high. You only set yourself up for disappointment, damages or at the very least a disgusting mess on the carpet.

Oh sure, when you bring that first baby home from the hospital it's only natural to bring home high hopes and expectations. I remember asking hubby, as we gazed into our newborn son's face, 'What do you think - could we be looking at a future prime minister here?' Years of parenting later and that's not a question I bother asking anymore.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I've given up on my eldest achieving his potential; it's just that I've adjusted the bar to a more realistic level.

A few years ago I dreamt of him running in the Olympics and winning gold, nowadays I'm happy if he just runs fast enough to catch the morning school bus.

Where once I pictured him on the world stage as an educated and articulate leader giving inspirational "I had-a-dream" speeches, I'm now satisfied and even a little giddy with excitement if I get anything more than a "Hi mum" and three grunts.

Trying to motivate and inspire a teenager is like starting a diet on a Monday - it's an activity filled with good intentions followed by frustration, tears and tantrums.

A dear friend, who just for the record has no children, suggested the old, "Give the kid more responsibility, the more responsibility teens have the more they grow in confidence, responsibility teaches them self-discipline, focus and direction."

Yeah, well I remember the last time I gave my eldest responsibility. He was given the responsibility of being the household bin monitor. All we learned from that little exercise was that a teen cannot be entrusted to wheel a bin full of prawn heads and six-day-old meatloaf to the direction of the curb in the middle of summer.

However, my dear friend (again, for the record - that's my dear, childless friend who lives in a world of white carpet and couches and drives a car that doesn't have that funky someone-spilt-chocolate-milk-on-the-seat-and-didn't-tell-mama smell) insisted that stepping up the responsibility factor was the way to go.

So this week I gave my eldest the role of mowing the lawn. He's helped out before, always accompanied by a lot of whinging (mostly from hubby) but this time he would be flying solo.

"So, where's the mower kept?" was his first question.

"It's the thing in the corner of the garage you've been using as a bike rack for the past three years," I shot back.
A few grunts later and he had his iPod plugged in and was half-heartedly pushing the mower around the front lawn. All was going well until he hit a freshly dropped doggie landmine. Then the proverbial hit the fan as well as stuck like glue to the lawnmower wheels.

After he'd finished dry retching he took responsibility for the sticky situation, grabbed the garden hose and completely doused the mower in water. Granted, not necessarily the smartest thing he's ever done but at least he was using his initiative and taking responsibility for the problem.

On the down side our mower is now totally cactus but on the upside I've convinced my dear childless advice-giving friend to let my eldest mow her lawn. After all, it's the least she could do. He needs to learn more about responsibility and she needs to learn what happens when you combine an apathetic teenager with a poop-covered lawnmower.

Topics:  family taming humour opinion parenting teenagers

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