Sooner or later it happens to everyone. You're asked to do a job that happens to be something you actually know something about. So you agree, only to find out that every time you make a decision the one who asked for your help overrides or second-guesses you. You've been given responsibility, but not authority. Which is why for years I've said that if you don't give me the authority, I won't take the responsibility.
Today I was on the other end of that equation. We hired two of our grandchildren, 13 year old Izzi, and 12 year old Ian, to help seal the fish pond. I told them to wear grubbies because it would be a messy job, which turned out to be a major understatement. Epoxy is nasty stuff; you mix it up and have less than half an hour to get it where you need it before it begins to set up. I told both kids that the protocol would be to start at the far edge, then work both ends, and finally painting themselves out. "Above all," I said, "Don't paint yourself into a corner." Which of course, is exactly what Izzi did.
I still haven't figured out how they got so much epoxy on their gloves that they were glued to the roller poles, but I have photographic proof of it. Izzi managed to walk in the freshly sealed surface, almost gluing her flip flops to the bottom, and leaving a grey trail on the rocks as she finally finished. They had epoxy everywhere! It took about half an hour with rubbing alcohol and paint thinner to get it off them. One thing I know: give a kid an outside paying job, and he (or she) will find a way of having fun doing it. They tackled the task enthusiastically, which probably has some connection to the mess they made. I gave them responsibility and authority. It doesn't always turn out quite as planned, but it turned out just fine.
The job is done except for one place I need to backfill before applying more sealer along one edge. Their hard work made it possible for me in between mixing more epoxy, to finish the backsplash in the kitchen. And it took me back more than fifty years to the hours I spent mowing my grandparents' lawn. That weekly job not only put spending money in my pre-teen pocket, but even more, gave me precious time with them. In my garage I still have the tin that resided in their bread box, always filled with Archway cookies that grandma would break out along with a tall glass of milk for me after the job was finished.
Once cleaned up, Izzi had to go, but Ian took a shower here before sitting down for lunch with us. You see, it's not just about the help which is very much appreciated. It's about the privilege of being a part of their lives, for which Linda and I are both grateful tonight.