Life with Liz: Rainy day lesson in assembly
A few weeks ago, G and I embarked on a project, refinishing an old dresser. Since then, G has been looking for opportunities to hone the skills he learned. All things considered, I’m very happy with how both the dresser and G’s work ethic have improved. Inspired by my success with him, I decided to embark on a project with E, as well.
As part of her new bedroom, she was getting a new bed. Growing up, I had always wanted a white daybed with brass accents, but that just never happened. Since E had decided on a beach theme for her room, it didn’t take much convincing to get her to agree to an ivory colored daybed, full of curlicues and swirls.
So far, my living vicariously through my kids has resulted in the purchase of a top of the line kitchen play set and now a daybed. Hopefully, I’m not scarring them for life.
Since we’re on a budget, I ordered it free delivery to store, and to assemble myself. The directions promised that everything needed for assembly was included in the package and the online reviews almost unanimously agreed that this bed was of high quality and was very easy to put together.
The package arrived a few weeks ago, and E was quite dismayed to see a flat box in the back of the car instead of her grand bed.
To add to her disgust, the stars were not aligned for its immediate assembly, and she quickly lost interest in it.
Finally, rain cleared the calendar on the same Saturday that the boys were out of town for a shooting competition. It seemed like the ideal time for some mother daughter do-it-yourself activity.
Unfortunately, we had already decided that the rainy afternoon was also the perfect day to cuddle up under a blanket on the couch with a good book. So, the first step in convincing ourselves to get to work consisted of each of us telling the other that we just needed to finish this chapter and we’d be ready to start.
A few hours later, we were finally ready to start assembling her bed. Trying to set a good example for E, I instructed her to carefully lay out all the pieces, which were all coded by letter.
While she was doing that, I tried to read the instructions from beginning to end. Since she got done faster than I did, I didn’t notice that she slipped out the door and went back to the couch and her book.
Sensing that her enthusiasm for the project was waning, I asked her how proud she would be to sleep in her bed every night, knowing that she helped build it. She responded that it would be nice if I put it all together for her, that way it would be like I was holding her every night, no matter how big she got.
She immediately took advantage of my tearing up to escape back to the couch again. I know she’s only 8, but I see we have a lot of work to do on overcoming her desire for instant gratification.
Once I got my emotions under control and finished being amazed at her manipulative capabilities, I frog-marched her back to work. Things were getting a little testy, but I was determined we were going to finish this together.
It wasn’t long until we hit another snag. We had been working nicely side by side, laying out all the parts and matching them up.
I had her assemble the nuts and washers while I laid out the frame, and then we got to work popping things together. All my pieces were coming together nicely, but E couldn’t get hers to stick no matter what. It wasn’t long before I realized that my little left-handed co-worker didn’t quite get the “righty-tighty, lefty loosey” rule of assembly. Once we got that figured out, though, she did an awesome job.
With about five pieces left to assemble, she was finally into the project.
The final step was to insert little tiny plastic caps in all the tiny little spaces where the snap and fit pieces came together, as much for safety as for aesthetics. This was the perfect project for her, and I sat back and let her run wild snapping the pieces into place and giving her the satisfaction of finishing the job all by herself.
As I watched her, I had to chuckle at the differences between how she and G took on a project. I know that some of it has to do with the difference in their ages and genders, but so much more of it has to do with their own personalities.
The wonderful husband and I are always amazed at how three individuals who came from the same genetic pool and were raised by the same parents in the same household can be so very different. As a scientist, I am always trying to decipher how much of who they are is nature versus nurture. As a mom, I’m usually just trying to figure out how to get through the day with a minimum of blood, sweat and/or tears.
As we got to the end of our project, I finally found the right incentive to motivate E. Sometimes cleaning up after a project is the toughest part, but E was so excited to set up her bed and roll out her carpet, that getting her to pick up all the packing material and sweep up the floor was a snap.
She was also eager for me to take a picture of “her” project and send it off to Dad. Hoping to capitalize on her enthusiasm, I asked her if she wanted to get busy refinishing the dresser that we had picked out for her room.
In typical E fashion, she informed me that she really didn’t think she needed a dresser. She would just continue to keep her clothes in the laundry basket that has served as her temporary storage unit.
When I informed her that my vision of our new house has them taking over their own laundry, and she was going to need that laundry basket for actual laundry, she informed me that G liked to fix up old dressers and she was sure he’d enjoy working on hers.
She’s not wrong.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.