My daughter has a vanity in her room. The physical kind, a table with a mirror, where you sit and primp yourself. She had a vanity stool, but alas, it broke so we needed to replace it. Enter assemble it yourself furniture.
She thoroughly exhausted the BBB website and found one that met her standards and was reasonably priced and qualified for free shipping. Score! Ordered and received.
Now we just had to put it together.
My daughter and I opened the box. That took about thirty minutes. I beleive opening packaging is a true test of character. You want to know who someone really is- give them a package to open. Once we got in, we realized the chair was a fairly simple thing- I believe there were 7 pieces and 1000 screws. The screws were where we started to have issues.
First off- they wanted me to use an actual Philips head screw driver for some of the things. There was the little L shaped Allen wrench, but also, Required: Philips Head Screw Driver. What? They want me to get an actual tool? Like, actual work?
“Attach post c to post b using screw 2.” OK I ask my daughter to hand me required pieces.
First thing I realized: I’m not that strong anymore. I was having trouble actually screwing the pieces together. Time for the electric drill. Which of course has no charge. My daughter looked very bored.
Two hours later, charged drill in hand, I taught my daughter how to use the drill. Now using a drill on cheap furniture is a tricky matter- you have to be gentle. You have to drill just enough so you can take over and manually screw it in. I showed her how to angle it, the amount of pressure to use, etc. After not too much sweat and tears, we did it.
After we finished, she asked the question “Who taught you how to do this? Who taught you how to use the drill?”
To which I replied “I taught myself. I can’t build much, but I know the basics.”
“When I get older, I’m going to pay someone to do this stuff.” she said
I started banging my head against the newly assembled vanity seat.
“You can’t always pay for someone to do stuff for you.” I finally said.
“Why not? You have the handyman do stuff for you.” she countered.
She had me there. I had recently paid the handyman to put up a new coat rack because i knew how much weight the rack would need to hold and I felt more confident with him doing it.
“There’s nothing wrong with getting expert advice, or paying for someone to do something for you. But, there is also nothing wrong with having some basic skills. Isn’t it nice to know that you can do something if you wanted to?” I said.
“But isn’t it better to know some things really well, like be an expert, and not worry about other stuff?” she asked.
Now she was giving me the “jack of all trades, master of none” mentality. What do I say? Part of me is thinking I’ve raised an over privileged child who has no practical knowledge, and part of me is excited because I can see her future career as a lawyer coming to fruition.
OK. I needed some sort of Momlogic. What do I say? Is she right? What’s the lesson and who is teaching it?
“Here’s the deal.” I said. “You should be an expert on certain things. Like, whatever you’re passionate about, and your career. Clearly, spend your time and mental energy on these things. But, there is nothing wrong with a smattering of knowledge. There is nothing wrong with having basic survival skills under your belt, like sewing a button, making a meal, putting furniture together. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, it’s good to know some of these things, to be able to do something yourself. It makes you feel good about yourself. It gives you confidence in your innate abilities. It makes you know you can survive anything.”
Ok- I know I was stretching it. Personally even though I can sew a button, cook a meal and use a screwdriver there is no way I’m surviving on a deserted island Gilligan’s Island style. I could not make a phone out of a coconut. Would she buy it?
“I don’t think I feel any more confident in my abilities now that you’ve showed me how to use a drill.” she said.
I hate parenting.
I showed her the stool. “Look at this.” I said. “A few hours ago this was a bunch of pieces and screws. Now is a usable item. You can sit on this and it won’t break. Doesn’t it feel good to know you did that? That you can put together something useful? That you had the ability to read the instructions, figure out what needed to be done, and do it? You accomplished something. Can everyone say that? You know your Father would have thrown this down the garbage chute by now.” His frustration level is very very low. Putting new batteries in the TV remote could send him into a tizzy. “You Father could not have put this together. Doesn’t it make you feel just a little bit good that you could?”
She looked at the vanity. Her mouth curled into the shape it gets when she’s about to be snarky.
“Yeah. I guess that’s true. I did do it. And you’re right- and besides Grandpa (my father) no one else in our family could.”
“But this doesn’t mean I want to spend weekends building things.” she added.
“Fine.” I said. Do you really think that’s something I wanted to do, spend weekends building furniture? “And now you have an idea how to use a drill. And this is about the fifth thing you’ve helped me build. So be proud.”
She picked up the vanity chair and brought it to her bedroom. As she walked away she quietly said “Can you make me hot chocolate? You do it so much better than I do.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day.