Saturday, February 21, 2015

The next generation of fixers






"Daddy fix it!" is a phrase that you will hear around our house more often than I care to admit. If you want some background on that, feel free to check out my earlier blog post titled "Broken." On one hand, it's sad that things seem to be breaking around here all the time. On the other hand though, I am proud that my daughters have already learned the value of repairing something despite the "throw it away and buy new" society we live in.
I grew up in a house with a Dad who was very adept at fixing things. In my eyes, there wasn't anything that he couldn't do. I "helped" with all kinds of projects ranging from changing the oil on the van to remodeling in the house. I know that's where I got my basic understanding of doing things for myself...and this was long before the rise of do-it-yourselfers and YouTube instructional videos. Although I appreciate the value of a YouTube video (and have utilized them numerous times), I prefer the side by side learning from someone who's actually done it before.

Between my years on job sites and the years I spent managing an Ace Hardware, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge for fixing just about anything. I say "just about" because I still lean heavily on my mechanic friends and tech friends for those types of issues. I like to say that I know enough about each of them to get myself in trouble. I know my limitations, but my two little girls do not. They think Daddy can fix anything...which sounds like a challenge to me.

Learn to break stuff first
I like to say that I choose to learn things the hard way because it reinforces the learning that much more. As a kid in school, my area of expertise was windows. There are only a handful of windows at my old grade school that I haven't put a soccer ball, softball, or football through. After the second or third window, they started having me "help" with the repairs. At first it was just watching the work being done in an effort to show me how much effort has to go into fixing my accidental breakage. It then turned into going with my dad to actually buy the replacement glass and then install it. Once again, I pretty much just watched, but it killed my whole afternoon. It taught me to appreciate the effort that goes into fixing something and, more importantly, that very few things can't be fixed.

My girls have been learning the same way as their old man. I find myself setting the same rules my folks did like "no playing catch in the house." My favorite story comes from my daughter throwing a ball in the living room and hitting a figurine on a shelf. It was a Willow Tree figurine of a bride and groom dancing. Picking up the figurine, I notice that the groom no longer has a head. We searched high and low and could not find the guy's head. Then, twenty minutes later as my wife was finishing her cup of coffee, she finds the head in the bottom of her coffee mug. It bounced just right and landed in her coffee. That is just one of many examples of my girls helping me have something to fix. The problem is that a little multi-purpose adhesive made fixing it look too easy. Now when something breaks, it's less of a concern about the breakage and more of an admiration that dad can fix "anything".

You can't fix everything
My girls and I spend a lot of time coloring. I don't know what is so fun about it other than the fact that it's something all of us can do and we're spending time together. Inevitably, one of the girls will accidentally tear the piece of paper they are coloring. Although I admire their desire to fix it, using a dozen pieces of tape to mend it not only makes it nearly impossible to color anymore, it also costs more in tape than the coloring book page is worth.

This is where I will admit that the mentality of our throw away society is almost out of our hands. My impression of how we got here will fill another entire post, so for now, I'll just say the cost of repairing something today almost makes it prohibitively expensive...at least to the point that it's not worth it even if you don't want to waste something.

There are also those things that just can't be fixed. My girls (as I've mentioned a hundred times in my posts) say the cutest things. I recall my daughters and I looking out the living room window at the two Maple trees in our front yard blowing in the wind. As we were watching the wind blow the tree around, a piece of deadwood fell out of the tree and lodged in the ground. Without missing a beat, my youngest looked at me and said, "Daddy fix it?" I am pretty handy, but grafting a dead piece of wood back into a tree and getting it to grow is a little out of my league. I do have extensive skills in the tree trimming arena though that could minimize the number of dead branches in the tree to begin with.

Go out and fix something
If you're not already a do-it-yourselfer, give it a try next time something breaks. You may find it rewarding. If you are already a DIY guru, help someone else learn how to do it themselves. My youngest daughter (pictured in the photo above) prompted this post. The drawer in that table she's crawling under has been slipping out of the glide rails recently making it hard for the girls to open and close the drawer. The thing that really blew me away wasn't the fact that she was taking a look at the problem, but rather the diagnosis she made. She got under the table, looked at the situation, and (correctly) explained something to the effect of "the little tires are falling off the road because it's too fat." When I got under the table to take a look, I saw that glide tracks (the road) were set too wide (fat) and the glide wheels (little tires) kept popping out of the track. I guess I have another generation of fixers in my family. Until next time....