Having extra sets of hands and assistance may not have been the primary reason I wanted to have kids, but the truth is: these little rug rats have really proven themselves useful these past few years. Whether it is assembling a piece of furniture, patching up a bicycle tire, mowing the lawn or building a chicken coop, our girls have always expressed a keen interest in being a part of the building, maintenance and repair department of our household. And I don’t mean they are interested in just sitting idly by to observe; no, no – they want in on the action as much as possible. They want to participate, they want to get hands on, understand the goal of what we’re looking to do, and they want to learn how things work. Theres also a very real interest in getting to know the various tools we might employ throughout a project; be it a hammer, a pair of wire strippers, or an impact driver, they want to know what it’s called, how it functions and are motivated to lend a helping hand, celebrating in the satisfaction of pieces coming together. After all, what is Ikea furniture if not a giant Lego set with a functional purpose?
I, too, have nothing but fond memories of the garage in our home and the workshop in our family store’s back room. My father would always, and I mean always, be working on and chipping away at something. Whether it was tinkering around the garden shed, repairing a television set, or building a tree house in our back yard, dad was, and continues to always be busy with his hands. I openly admit that I don’t recall personally being that helpful in these endeavours, but I do recall standing by in admiration as I watched he and my older brother achieve greatness with a few blocks of wood, a handful of tools and, what seemed to me, the strength of a thousand otherworldly beings. I’m sure at some point I must have passed them a screwdriver or a hammer or a few nails, but by and large, I was an observer, and it wasn’t until later in life that I truly began tinkering on my own. I do like to think, though, that I learned much of what I know now from those early years by his example and means of osmosis.
Nowadays, I love tools and appreciate the nuances and specifics the various forms, shapes, size and base-material that each ‘type’ of saw, for example, can offer. Just like being in a kitchen, there’s a right tool for the job and scenarios in which they make sense. I also now posses great respect and understanding for how things work and how to build them myself, and I am excited that the girls are interested in all of it. Not only that, they are actually quite useful when it comes to the whole process. In the earliest stages, before they even knew what we were doing, they would collect the tools, turn the pages of the instruction manual and carry the various boxes of bits and pieces from the front hall to wherever it was we were completing our project, but now they are full-on into using those very same tools and discovering how things come together. Sure, it may take 176 times as long to actually accomplish anything, we lose parts down the air vent, there are multiple snack breaks (not that I mind that), we take frequent pee breaks and there’s more dancing involved than there was with my dad and brother, but they love it and so do I. They are interested, they are learning and, more than anything, we are spending time together.
It’s not lost on me that a day will come when my lovely little ladies will grow up and I’ll be the last person they want to spend time with, I’m sure I’ve stated that before, but when that day comes I will reflect back on these moments and revel in the fact that they are now set free into the world with a variety of skill sets which will allow them to be independently successful. They will be capable of operating a reciprocating saw in the same way they can operate a ‘No. 2’ pencil or a chef’s knife. They will continue to learn these skill sets just as I will continue to teach them, the same as my parents had done for us. For as long as they express and I can encourage interest, I will have them by my side for any and all projects. Not to mention: they fit into spaces that my 40-year frame simply cannot.
But it’s not just a usefulness they provide when it comes to ‘some assembly required’, not at all. I’ve learned the charms of these little kiddos comes in handy in all types of interesting scenarios. Venturing into The World and through public spaces with kids in tow is a vastly different experience than when I fly solo. Granted, I may move a lot quicker when I’m on my own, but I don’t reap nearly the same number of rewards; from free chocolate bars in the grocery store to extra suckers at a restaurant and discounts at the movies, having them come along with me has been an exercise in savings…well, maybe not in the long-term, those extra stickers from the Walmart greeter won’t pay the tuition bills, though I l do like me some free Timbits now and again!
They’re also great at pitching in, depending on the task, of course; cleaning up after themselves, packing up boardgames, pencil crayons and keeping rampant Happy Meal toys off the ground isn’t high on their priority list after all. But a few select ‘chores’ seem to bring them great joy, and their participation is fantastically helpful. They legitimately help mow the lawn, they always bring their dishes to the counter after a meal, they are incredibly helpful on a portage, reducing the number of trips we need to take back and forth, they seem to enjoy the act of laundry and they take particular pleasure in carting the grocery bags into the house and putting items away in their proper place. I think that, for them, it’s like unpacking a Christmas stocking as they discover what’s inside of each and every bag, hoping that their trusty papa managed to bring home a couple of extra treats or surprises. Whatever their motivation, they are genuinely helpful and we encourage the behaviour as best we can. And, yes, I am notoriously guilty for bringing home ‘treats and surprises’…but there are worse things I feel I could do than slipping a Kinder egg in with the carrot sticks.
Each and every day, as we sit around our table discussing our rose, bud and thorn, we’ve since decided to include our ‘sunshine’ as a way to appreciate and recognize all the ways in which they support and help ‘Team Bean’. I love their participation and watching them learn; I enjoy being their teacher and the relationship we are building together. Perhaps, more than anything else I’ve mentioned in this post, however, they have taught me to become a better, more loving, attentive, reflective and caring human being. They remind me that, through inclusion and teamwork, I am not simply doing a task; we are working together and sharing knowledge. Were it not for them and all of the adventures we share together I don’t know if I’d have found the motivation to start writing again. They have taught me so much thus far, and to them I will be forever grateful.