Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What's Gonna Work? Teamwork!

It's been quite a long time since I've seen an episode of The Wonderpets, but their teamwork-driven theme song is still sung frequently in our home.

I was raised in a home where if one person was working, the whole family was working.  Everybody pitched in for Science Fair.  Everybody helped clean the house.  And if dad was working, you'd better believe one of us was at least holding the flashlight.

As a child/teen, I learned to use a variety of equipment working alongside my dad.  Not only did he teach me to change a tire when I learned to drive, but he made sure I had plenty of experience with the wide variety of tools in his shop including the table saw, drill press (I remember once when he used it to drill through his fingernail to remove the pressure of blood that had pooled after he'd smashed it), router, and anything that can be hooded to a compressor.  He taught me the beauty of a well-made jig, how to spray an even coat of varnish, the importance of keeping kitty litter nearby to clean up spills, and probably most importantly that everything is a hammer.  No, I take that back.  He taught me, most importantly, that I could do it.  Maybe I was little.  And kind of weak.  And a girl.  Maybe we didn't have the right tool.  Maybe we'd never done something like this before.  So what?!  I could do it.

I wish I could remember more of the specifics of what he taught me, especially when it comes to how to fix a car.  Fortunately, even though the specifics didn't stick, the confidence remained.  Just knowing that once upon a time, I helped roof a shed gives me the confidence to believe, "Hey, I can roof a shed!"  And knowing that once upon a time when he and my mom were building their own house, he had the confidence that I could handle hooking up all the electrical outlets (I was eleven) helps me have that same confidence in my own kids.

We aren't doing much of the work in the new house, but we are installing the flooring ourselves.  Well, sort of ourselves (the list of friends, family, and neighbors who've lent a hand keeps growing)!  I haven't dared take the kids to the work site every time we've gone, and we've actually done much of the work in the middle of the night just to avoid needing to worry about their well-being.  But we've taken them over in batches.  One at a time.  Two at a time.  Three at a time if we were feeling particularly brave.

And they've worked alongside us.  I've been trying to remember the same methods my dad used when I was little:

1. Choose a job the child can accomplish, mostly without supervision.
2. If the kiddo is working alongside you, explain everything.  Talk about the math.  Talk about the technique.  Explain the details.
3. If all else fails, let him (or her) hold something.  A bucket.  Supplies.  The marker.
4. Make him feel important.  Make sure the child knows that he is making your job easier just by being there.
5. Be patient.  Forgive the mistakes.  Point out your own.  Build confidence.

What I've ended up with is great helpers whose work I can be really proud of.

Dylan handed me spacers while I laid tile, and when the job was done, he gathered them all up.  He hammered.  He measured (okay, played with the measuring tape).  He vacuumed.  And sometimes, he supervised.

Alex hasn't spent as much time helping as the others.  Unfortunately there are a lot more steps required when working with Alex that include frequently making certain he isn't doing absentminded damage to himself, the tools, or the supplies.  But he did come over today and spent some time hammering with Daddy.  I also assisted him with one cut on the chop saw and caught him once using the dremel unassisted.

Adam, however, was the one with whom I was most impressed.  We weren't just allowing him to work for his own growth and well-being.  He was actually helpful.  He measured and cut (unassisted) the starter pieces for an entire bedroom.  He also took orders from Kirk for various end pieces that needed cut.  In about 3.5 hours of work, he made one wrong cut, the rest of the time keeping measurements and directions straight.  Although I'm certainly proud of his mastery of the noisy machinery (this is a kid who used to cry during fireworks), I was most proud to see how quickly, confidently, and accurately he could measure to 1/2, 1/4, and even 1/8 inch increments.  I also thought he managed the scrap resources well, kept his work space organized, ("Oh, mom, I have 10 pieces in my left-side 16" scrap pile," to which I jokingly turned to Kirk and said, "But who's counting?  Well, obviously you are sir!") and took pride in being as accurate as possible.  Now to look through his Cub Scout book and see what he can pass off for his hours of work!

Oh, and then there's me.  Honestly, I'm pretty much as proud of myself as I am of the kids.  I've been there for nearly every square of tile and strip of laminate wood.  I've done the mortar, spaced the tile, cut the laminate, used all three saws we have on site, and even completed the pantry flooring with just me and Michelle (and technically Tyler and Ryder).

"Uh, there's a baby in the cold storage..."  -- Mr. Electrician
But I really don't mind putting my own spin on it.  I have no problem working with a tiny measuring tape and a gold marker, and I'm not above asking Kirk to buy me safety glasses.

I've gotten double takes from the construction supervisor, I've gone to bed physically drained and covered in dust, and I've sung "Callin Baton Rouge" with Nick and Kirk while laying flooring.  And - truth be told - I've loved it.  There's just something to be said for working on your own house with your own hands.