One of the best things that has come from writing BuildMeUpButtercup—apart from learning to install pocket screws with a Kreg jig— is connecting with people who are willing to share their interest and expertise in construction and craft.
Recently, a friend I haven’t seen in over a decade read Buttercup and called to talk through some ideas he was having about ways to bring woodwork back into his family life. He had grown up with his father teaching him to use power tools, including saws and planes. Now, in an era when kids are more often steered toward Legos than toward lathes, he is trying to figure out how to pass a fluency in tools to his own sons.
Funny that he would broach the topic of hyper-worry with me, OSHA Mom. We all know that I am the worst when it comes to over-protective parenting. Years ago, when I was looking for daycare for my children, I came across a facility where the 4-year-olds had access to a box of hammers. Not cute little plastic Fisher Price hammers, but real-deal bash-in-your-skull hammers. I stood there, all hopped up on maternal hormones, imagining some juvie-bound daycare colleague with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of his onesie, heaving a 15-ounce titanium Stiletto at my precious baby. Toddler rhinoplasty and pricey litigation would ensue, followed by counseling and PTSD. Such open access to tools was, in my sleep-deprived and hyper-vigilant mind, a flagrant dereliction of childcare duty. Right up there with Bag O’ Glass. Needless to say, my children did not attend that institution.
Fast forward a decade, to this summer when I took my middle-schoolers to the SkillsUSA National Leadership & Skills Conference in Louisville and they spent the better part of the week at the DeWalt booth, competing to see how fast they could drill five drywall screws into a board using a 20-volt lithium ion impact driver. “Driven” does not begin to express the doggedness with which they tackled the task. And they were fast and accurate. Like little 20-volt lithium ion woodpeckers.
Upon returning home and disembarking from the minivan, the first thing the kids asked me was if I would buy them a box of drywall screws so they could practice drilling with my impact driver. Suddenly, overprotective OSHA Mom welled up from within, barking something along the lines of “Don’t be crazy! You know we don’t play with power tools!” Did I actually think that, upon exiting the SkillsUSA bubble of DIY self-reliant competency, my children had lost all capacity for responsible use of appliances?
I related these stories to my long-lost friend, as we talked about the disconnect between children and carpentry skills, and he reminded me that by learning at an early age to respect the inherent danger in tools, he had learned to minimize it.
Anyway, it was an absolute delight to reconnect with my friend, to swap stories about the last few years, and to spit-ball ideas about construction education projects for kids. But as happy as I am that he called, my children will be even happier about the conversation, which just might result in their very own box of drywall screws.