Elbow Grease and Hard Work for a Little Red Wagon


There are some things in life that your children won’t read in a book or learn at school. One of those things is the value of elbow grease and hard work.

Schools don’t teach about elbow grease, they teach you memorization

On Good Friday, my son and I went for a walk to the local park. We don’t get to do things alone all that often so it was a welcome opportunity for us to spend time together. Our local park is well set up for a child as young as my son.

As we were walking to the park, there was a wagon sitting on the side of the road. When an item sits on the side of the road, it usually means that it is being given away. Knowing that this particular wagon costs over $100 at regular prices, it was surprising to see. We went up to the house and spoke with the homeowner and sure enough it was being given away.

My son and I went up to the wagon and immediately noticed that it was filthy inside. The bottom was coated in pine needles, as if someone left it under a pine tree all winter long. The wheels were in great shape and nothing was bent nor were there any cracks. As my son and I were inspecting it, I asked him if he wanted to take it, he quickly replied “Yes, Dada.”

We claimed the little red wagon. Time to start pulling it

Then something funny happened, he grabbed the handle and began pulling it towards the park. Didn’t ask for him to grab it, his instincts just led him to begin pulling. I thought he was going to ask for a ride but no, he wanted the wagon and knew there was work to be done.

He brought the wagon right to the side of the play area and every time he went to a different area of the park, he made sure he could see the wagon. When it was time to go home, he ran over to the wagon and began pulling it again. Couldn’t put my finger on it but I was proud in that moment.

Three quarters of the way home he fell and got a scrape on his knee. It is a long walk for his little legs and he was becoming tired. I put him on my shoulders but not before he made sure I had the wagon.

When we got home, the hard work began on the little red wagon.

Being that it was Good Friday, we couldn’t run out to grab some rags for cleaning. The garage was cleaned the weekend before and a restocking run hadn’t been made. Our resources were slim but we improvised. We found two old snow brushes and a bucket, grabbed some dish soap, attached the hose and we went to work.

For the better part of an hour, my son and I were in the back yard, scrubbing the wagon. Getting every last spot. I would run in the house to grab our waters, he would be outback cleaning. He did not stop until the wagon was ready to go.

I went to turn on the water for the hose to rinse the wagon and he had begun cleaning his slide. The elbow grease and hard work didn’t stop.

My son didn’t ask if he should do it, didn’t worry about what anyone else thought, he just knew if he was cleaning the wagon, he might as well clean his slide too. My son gave me a very good lesson in that moment.

After the wagon was clean, we left it in the sun to dry. I thought that my son would want a little break after his sweat equity; was I wrong. For the next 45 minutes we jumped on the trampoline.

His boundless energy was on full display; another lesson for myself.

My son had no intention of teaching me lessons that day but he did.

Through his pulling of the wagon; he taught me something about determination.

Through his cleaning of the wagon; he taught me something about elbow grease and hard work.

Through his cleaning of the slide; he taught me something about doing rather than speaking.

And through his bouncing on the trampoline; he taught me something about boundless energy.

It was a great day with my son and we now have a nearly brand new $100 wagon to show for it. The wagon will serve as a reminder of the great day we had together.

Never be afraid to put in a little elbow grease and hard work.

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