For many years, my son dutifully held the light for me or handed me screws when I needed them. He was my little helper. Over the course of his life, we have built an entire new bathroom, replaced the insides of our kitchen, painted the outside of the house from foundation to rooftop, and a great many home repair projects in between. There's a picture somewhere out there that shows me holding my cordless drill while my son stares up at the fence we were creating in our back yard. It's a great father and son moment.
Except it wasn't, exactly. I have a tendency, like a lot of fathers I suppose, to take the lead when it's time to put something together or take it apart. I know where the tools are. I put them there. When it's time to get the saw out, I can tell someone where to go and pick it up. That someone is often my son. When he's not there, I ask my wife. There are also plenty of instances in which I don't ask for help at all. I just push on through. That's the way things get done.
Like the Boogle House in our back yard. It's the club house I built over the years with the bits and pieces of lumber that were left over from the home improvements we made. I built it. I thought my son would love it. His friends sure did. But he never took to it the way I thought he might. As it turns out, his mother had some insight that I didn't: Maybe if he had helped build it, he might have spent more time out there. Maybe he would have had his friends over to hammer nails and drill new spy holes. Or maybe he was more interested in his video games and Legos.
I'm pretty sure his mother had it right. I wish that I would have found a way to share the chore of making our house the estate it is today. Or will be, once we finish a few more small renovations. The ones I plan to ask for help on. You see, last week I went with my son to his school to work on some of the backstage construction he is doing for the Fall play with his friends, the Techies. I walked into his shop where he knew where the tools were. I held boards together while he used a pneumatic stapler to hold them together. He asked me to wait while he found the broom so we could help clean up. It wasn't humiliating, exactly, but I felt it. I watched him work, and I felt something else: proud. I can't really take credit for teaching him how to put things together. That was his teachers and his friends at school. Maybe a little bit of that leaked through from the days we spent together fixing things and putting them back together. Watching my son build things made me feel like I wanted to build something. With him.