In the current social climate, it is more important than ever to call out stereotypes and address them head on. I know we’ve all seen the memes and spoof YouTube videos. The dopey dad with a pair of grass-stained New Balance obsessing over his lawn mower and prioritizing his lawn over all else. Even in the face of an oncoming tornado, a dad must tend to his lawn. To this notion of what makes a dad, I must say no.
Do I own a lawn mower? Yes. Do I mow my lawn? Of course. Would I prefer my lawn to be more green than brown? You bet. Is it some passion, some obsession, some ritualized activity that I’ve somehow intertwined with my dadness? Absolutely not. At its most enjoyable, lawn care for me is some time to put headphones on and get some uninterrupted time to listed to music or a podcast. At its least enjoyable, it is something that involves more than walking around my yard while the mower does the work. If mowing my lawn gives me a reason to get moving outside on a nice day, then sign me up. If it means doing things that could be categorized as landscaping, hard pass. And I don’t think that makes me any less of a dad. I might actually be in the majority.
For me, the obligation to maintain a tidy lawn is one of a homeowner who doesn’t want to have the worst looking yard on the street, not one of a dad. Lawn maintenance should be like an umpire in baseball, if the job is done properly, you don’t even notice it. Passers by will notice the lawn that looks professionally manicured, and the lawn that looks like the chimpanzee enclosure at the zoo. They will not notice the lawn that has probably been cut within the last week and isn’t completely brown. That’s the sweet spot to be in. To put just enough work into the lawn so it doesn’t make somebody wonder if you’ve died.
Now I am sure there are real life dads out there who reinforce this stereotype. With mowers that are finely tuned with freshly sharpened blades. Who’d rather put out a sprinkler at just the right time of day everyday than to sure hope it rains soon because the yard is really starting to get crunchy. And yes, dads who have turned a white pair of crappy shoes green. But I am not him. My mower is in good enough shape to get the job done, but probably not what you’d call “maintained”. My method for achieving green grass is mostly based on the weather report. (Though full disclose – during a recent hot and dry spell I did water my back yard where the kids play, but more out of wanting them to be able to play on actual grass and not a patch of scorched earth that looks like it belongs between two trenches. I’m just looking out for my kid’s feet here.) And I mow the lawn in work boots. There is no way I’m sacrificing a pair of my shoes in the name of my lawn, and if that’s not completely against this stereotype, then I don’t know what is.
I’m not here to judge the guys out there to are all about their lawns. You do you, buddy. You be that shining beacon on the block. As long as you don’t live right next to me. A C+ average looks much worse when directly compared to the valedictorian. But I am fairly certain these lawn care all-stars are not the norm. I have to believe that the average dad is just a dude looking to get out of the house for a little while and push a mower around. And really, isn’t the true dad move to not take care of your lawn yourself, but to make your kids do it?
The real lawn care dad stereotype should be a guy staring out the window and saying to his kid, “The lawn isn’t going to mow itself.” Now that is a stereotype I would gladly fit in. My oldest kid is only 4, so we aren’t there yet, but I am definitely going to do more lawn watching than lawn mowing. It might even be one of the best reasons to have kids in the first place.