I’m not like most moms I guess. Instead of wondering when Annabelle will be able to join ballet, I wonder when she will be old enough to pick up a drill. Part of it comes from my own background. My daddy owns a fence company out in Montana, so a large part of my childhood was spent around the company “yard” filled with brace bands that we built race cars with, commercial pallets of wood that my brother and I played ‘Jenga’ with, and twenty foot long pipes that we played music on. By the time I was a teenager, I could use a nail gun, stretch and tie up a chain link fence, and build a gate.
All of these skills, while I didn’t realize it at the time, significantly impacted my adulthood with three key traits such as being creative, handling failure, and building risk tolerance. As an adult, I never thought the ability to put together a gate would impact my ability to get a job as in the IT sector, but surprisingly it was the skillset I needed. While I no longer wish to build gates and I’ve chosen to be a stay at home mom, I am confident that in a couple of years, I’ll be able to step back into the business world or build my own company. For now, I am happy working on DIY projects around the house while waiting for my kids to be old enough to help. My hope is to pass some of these traits along to my kids.
Most DIY’ers like to figure out how to put things together. It’s not enough to simply buy a piece of furniture at the local store because of the convenience (not a judgement, I’ve done it before!), but rather a DIY project often stems from deeper beliefs such as the importance to reuse existing materials, the creative process of putting something together, the desire to save money, a need to work with our hands and build something. I’ve noticed that Annabelle already has a natural curiosity for figuring out how things work. At music class, she isn’t interested in tapping the xylophone, she’d rather dissassemble the metal from the wooden base and put it back together. Most Moms might get exasperated, since the goal is to play the instrument and make music. As a DIY’er, I appreciate that she wants to figure out how things are made before even knowing what they are going to be used for. I hope she is able to take her curiousity and creativity and apply it to her life as the world begins to open up for her.
Right now, I am working on putting together Annabelle’s toddler bed. The instructions are pretty sparse and you have to pay attention to the pictures because the text is really short and sometimes hard (for me) to understand. At a crucial moment, Annabelle woke up from her nap and Bill was calling, so I hurried and bolted together some pieces. At night, after I put her down for the evening, I found that I constructed the bed frame backwards. Tired, I was exasperated and wanted to give up. Do I? Should I? In my younger years, I’ve thrown tools, made excuses, kicked projects, and cursed away. Instead of boo-hooing away and giving up, I looked over the project and found an easy fix. I found a way to make it work. Over the years of working on DIY projects, I’ve realized that I have a choice to either solve the problem or complain about it. DIY projects have taught me that it’s okay to fail sometimes, it’s okay to be exasperated, but (hopefully sooner rather than later) realize the lesson and move on to a solution. This is a hard lesson for kids, but one I would rather teach them in the safe environment of our home so they are ready when they head out into the real world.
One of Annabelle’s favorite sayings is “I did it!” She says this when getting up on the couch by herself, helping to feed the dog treats, or after unpeeling a mostly peeled banana. Giving your kids at a young age the ability to take ownership at a young age is important and the beginnings of a healthy relationship with independance and risk taking. This Christmas, Grandpa came out to visit and he was fixing a cabinet door that my pregnancy brain refused to fix. As he was sitting on the floor, Annabelle was absolutely enthralled with what he was doing. He let her take the screwdriver and turn the screw in. After she was done, he praised her for being a big girl and helping. Obviously, she didn’t help in any real terms, but I believe she felt that she contributed in a real way, that she was trusted to handle a screwdriver (of course with Grandpa’s hands on the base), and we were able to allow her to take a risk in a safe environment. As a DIY’er, I’ve also learned risk taking while meeting new people, negotiating lower prices, and to not be afraid of turning my thoughts into reality.
I am trying not to get ahead of myself. Annabelle is only 19m old and Liam isn’t even born yet and I have to remind myself to appreciate the now. Which I do, but I also like to future trip once in awhile and imagine the kids helping me out on some fun projects. I know these projects will also be hard, it’s hard to work on a team and communicate and learn new things, sometimes even more so when there is a parent involved. Through it all, I’ve learned that parenthood is often mimics a DIY project, which on a side note should never be defined as “doing by myself” because it certainly is and takes a village! At any rate, the DIY lessons I’ve learned will not only help Annabelle and Liam as they grow up, but the skills are helping me right now to be a better parent and wife.