What I Learned from a Southern Pressure Washer


I'm from the Midwest, so a pressure washer is a foreign object to me.   In the Midwest, you worry about snow, falling leaves, and grass seed.   There is little need for a pressure washer.   One of my friend's husbands invested in one a number of years ago, being the only one in his neighborhood to have one he thought he would be helpful, since there isn't a lot to use one on.   He offered to wash their windows with his newly acquired pressure washer.   After he blew out the second window on a neighbor's house, he gave up being a good neighbor, and I'm sure the rest of the neighborhood was grateful.   With that as a backdrop, I recently purchased a pressure washer with some trepidation.

The first issue is getting the pressure washer to work.   After enlisting others to assist me in getting the object together, the first one was returned.   On the second pressure washer, it was another problem. The first difficulty I overcame, but the second was that the spray gun would not go together.   Happily, the college student next door had the good sense to recognize there were more parts available than what I was using.   Managing a pressure washer takes some patience, and it doesn't move along the timeline one desires.   In the end, what I found was that a pressure washer was analogous to working with children.

I was excited to take charge of the pressure washer and get the job done.   What I soon discovered was the pressure washer had a mind of its own.   I suspect this isn't too different than your child.   The other early thing that I learned is that this is dirty work; it is best to be prepared because you will get dirty.   Again, this is something analogous to raising children; it isn't always smiles and roses.

During the four-hour adventure I had with the pressure washer, I had plenty of time to muse (this must be why Southern males so enjoy their pressure washers).   I could hear two others in my neighborhood while I had mine working.   There was time to ponder how pressure washers are like working with kids.   When I got too close and decided to blast away, most of the time the dirt came right back in my face, and I didn't accomplish what I had intended.   However, when I was back with an angle that gave me some perspective, it was easier to see what was going on, and I did get done what I wanted to accomplish.   I worked with college students for 30 years.   This conclusion is the same as I would have with them, too -- close didn't achieve the desired results, backing off and gaining perspective achieved results.

Even hours into the job, it was clear I wasn't going to get everything done I had hoped.   I could only do part of what I needed to do, because it was too much.   I was trying to eliminate years of growth.   I had to focus on the part that I could accomplish that day, returning later to work on more of it.   This is true of children too; sometimes it is to make one point, give that time to soak in and then return to continue to shape the outcome you hope.

For years, I worked with parents who had college students that were a challenge.   Sometimes I met the parents and thought, "nut didn't fall far from tree."   Other times, I met the parents who could not understand how the student managed to get into so much trouble. They were often lovely people, and the student bore no resemblance to them.   In both cases, the pressure washer was at work.   When there was too much pressure, the situation blew up and didn't produce what was desired.   But the gentle, focused, systematic pressure that you pay attention to does often reap desired results.

In my current work, I often have occasions to see parents at work.   There's one in particular that stands out.   With the focus on bullying, this girl reports she is bullied frequently.   Interestingly, I've never seen this girl bullied, but the mother is aggressive about anyone speaking to the girl in a manner that she perceives as bullying.   I always wonder how well this girl will adjust, since everyone has pressure in life.   How you deal with the pressure plays into how happy and content you will be.   I question the wisdom of always responding, rather than encouraging healthy responses to the pressures of life.

My deck isn't finished, despite a lot of work this weekend.   Because of the nature of growth in the South, it will never really be finished.   I will work on it again and focus on a different facet of the project.   But I have learned that blasting away too close doesn't produce the desired results.   Staying back, remaining focused, and applying steady pressure from a distance does create the desired results.



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