House Projects with Kids

I remember my dad was always doing a house project. Still is. Most of my growing up years were spent in a large, old house, and my dad poured a lot of sweat and energy into fixing it up. My mom into coming behind with the shop vac. While I wasn’t too involved (my brothers and Grandpa and uncles put in most of the manual labor helping Dad), one instance stands out.

Many months after the insanely hot and humid summer day when the ancient lath and plaster walls and ugly green linoleum were torn out of our kitchen, it came time to hang drywall on the new vaulted ceiling of the now open, bright room. My dad enlisted the help of my mom, my brother and myself, and we wrestled the heavy drywall up onto the scaffolding, over our heads, and held it in place, grunting and sweating. Then (and only then) was I informed I would be one the one to screw it in place. Makes sense, I was probably bearing the least amount of its weight, being the smallest helper. Did I mention I had little to no experience with a drill and drywall screws? It wasn’t my most shining moment.

But the drywall is still up there today, so it all worked out in the end.

All these years later, my prince charming engineer is, like my dad, a do-it-yourself type. Which has worked out immensely well and definitely in my favor. Our first little studio apartment was made livable by his handiness with the miter saw he bought with some of our wedding gift money (and also by its close proximity to the beach). Buying our own place has been an adventure. Our small fixer upper kept us more than busy the first few months as we completely replaced the wiring, took out a wall, rebuilt the kitchen from zero, and a myriad of other projects. Four years in, we go in spurts, but it’s still definitely a work in progress.

And I love that our boys are growing up with the same front row seat to the hard work it takes to make an old house a comfortable home. Talk about a great introduction to the application of STEM skills! Calculating materials, measuring, thinking through a process, following directions/plans, troubleshooting, etc.

Our current project is a shed in the backyard. One of the downsides to a full-time employed rocket scientist taking on the building process is how long it takes, not because he’s not good at it, but simply because he’s a busy guy. We’re finally in the last stage, so close to being finished. I say we, but really I haven’t done much. One, I’m not super qualified to handle power tools, as the aforementioned experience elaborates. Two, I’m not very enthusiastic about helping, something I’m trying to work on. And three, when you factor in two little buddies who also need attention, it makes the most sense for each of us to remain in our own area of expertise (mine being childcare, his being engineering/design).

But I can paint. And, in a moment of realization, it dawned on us that so can Eddie. We are entering a new era, one of expecting Eddie to put in a little work when it comes to making our house our family home.

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So New Year’s Day we all put on our grungy work clothes and had a little family project while the little guy napped/was strapped into the stroller watching us (active toddler does not mix with wet paint, in case you were wondering).

In magic 4-year-old fashion, Eddie was thrilled to be included and “get” to work with Dad and Mom. I fully expect this phenomenon to come to an end as he ages, don’t worry, but for now we will enjoy the more-than-willing attitude!

Now, having kids learn-by-doing alongside us on a real project with desired (and expected!) results, opens a whole can of worms. Mainly: control. He is learning. THERE WILL BE MISTAKES. This I know in my head, but that doesn’t stop the yelp as he lays his wet roller on the ground in the dirt/grass/leaves/twigs or drips all over the place while claiming his brush needs more paint! Each time he’s learning a valuable lesson. Lessons that honestly can’t really sink in any other way.

By some miracle we finished painting the shed in one day. This is an enormous victory! House projects always, always have unforeseen challenges and usually delays, so when all goes according to plan and everyone ate and slept according to normal schedule it is a win! And the fact Eddie is still game for helping with house projects and we’re still game to have him join in, also a win! Next up, the garage overhaul! Or the bathroom remodel. Or the landscaping. Or expanding the front porch. Or adding the French doors. Or…

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