I didn’t give my son a hammer. We should all remember this.
I have taught my children to use hammers, of course I have, I am a good father and everyone knows that responsible hammer ownership is in the constitution somewhere. So I have taught all of my minions to use a hammer and use it well. I have taught them that things that are alive, you don’t hit with a hammer. I have taught them that you can hit things that are dead with a hammer, but it’s pretty gross and in general, is a bad idea. I have taught them that steel and metal deserve to be hit with a hammer. And that is the mistake. I was thinking of nails.
My garage is, as you would expect, my sanctuary. No one is allowed to give me “design ideas” for my garage. No one is allowed to tell me how to “decorate” my garage. No one is allowed to hang anything on my garage walls. It is a place where work gets done and not a place where the pretty gets admired. Our house has rooms dedicated to just being pretty.
My toddler son and I were in my garage to fix an old antique chair. It is/was quite beautiful. Made out of what I think to be walnut, mortise and tenon joint work, and a thatched back. Walnut is one of the toughest woods known to the every day woodworker and in theory, what you build out of it will be good for the next 100 years. That is unless it has met my children.
It is broken because that is what my children do. They break things that have stood up to twenty years of abuse. Twenty years and the chair has been just fine. One year in my house and all of a sudden a walnut leg gets snapped off. I am told that it was an accident. We seem to have a lot of “accidents” in this house. I don’t need to really go into details because it’s a story that every father knows.
Kids break everything. All the time. But my kids are going to help me fix it.
In all honesty, though, I do love when the kids help me fix things. They are getting pretty good at it which should show you how much practice they get. We do have a rule here, you break it you fix it. They seem to like the rule, maybe because they get to spend quality time with dad in the garage.
I have the chair clamped up which took some work as it is an odd shape. I had to use five different clamps to get it just right and get the damaged chair leg flush with the side rail. It was being stubborn so I needed to whack it.
I grabbed my hammer…..
Then I thought no, this isn’t a hammer job. Responsible hammer ownership begins with knowing what isn’t a hammer’s job. I tell my son instead to grab my rubber mallet. It’s not a hammer.
The mallet won’t damage the wood but it will give me the proper force to smack the leg back. I let my son help because honestly, what kind of damage can you do with a rubber mallet? That’s a dumb question, I know that now.
I tell him to whack away. This marks the highlight of his day. His father has given him something heavy and destructive and permission to swing away. This is his moment in the big leagues. The grin on his face is tentative like he’s thinking I am messing with him. I smile back at him and nod, yes son, swing as hard as you can.
He brings the mallet up, eyeballs his target and swings with all his little arm. Boom, he makes good contact. He even misses my face, which is a plus.
He hits the chair leg right where I want him to. It slides closer to where it needs to be. I tell him to go nuts. And he does. I’m an idiot.
He swings and hits. He swings and hits. He swings and hits.
He is in his own little world now. He’s almost feverish. Dad said he could swing with the mallet. Dad is not stopping him. Swing and hit, swing and hit.
This may be the best day of his life.
I’m enjoying watching this. I’m enjoying his enthusiasm. I am enjoying his smile. I am a good father.
Without warning, he turns. He has grown bored. He needs something new. He finds it. The hood of my new minivan. He swings.
“NO!” I scream as I reach for the mallet. If I could only reach it before it makes contact. If only, if only, if only. My fingers come within millimeters of the handle. I am too late.
Boing! The rubber mallet makes contact with the hood. It bounces back. The shock waves of air expand out toward us, and I can feel them. He prepares to take another swing.
My kids destroy stuff. It’s what they do. It does not matter what it is. Nothing can withstand their combined might. It doesn’t help when I give them the tools to make the destruction easier. My car hood is now dented enough that I could use it as a beer holder.
This is why I practice responsible rubber mallet ownership. Well, at least I do now.
Previously published on Hossman-at-Home