Life with Liz: Renovating the family home
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but working on a house remodel with my kids is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.
Even more surprising, I think my kids would agree! Initially, the Wonderful Husband and I were planning how to get the work done when the kids weren’t around, but after a few weekends of juggling, we realized we had to learn how to work around them.
I’m not sure why I was reluctant to get them involved in the renovations. Maybe it was the fact that every time I ask them to do their regularly scheduled chores, I am met with pouting and feet dragging, and 800 excuses of why they shouldn’t have to clean their rooms or put their laundry away. Maybe it was the fact that I had a lot of work to do, and wanted to focus on just getting it done, and didn’t think I’d have the time to explain the difference between a flat-head and a Phillips screwdriver to three kids with the attention spans of gnats.
Maybe it was the constant picking and poking at each other that seems to happen whenever they’re within 3 feet of each other. My kids are great when they’re in their elements, but I was having a hard time seeing a gutted room that needed to be rebuilt as a place where they’d thrive and as a place where they wouldn’t drive me crazy.
E was the most persistent.
“Moooooom, can’t I help you paint? I really, really, really, really, really want to help you paint.”
While we were working on her bedroom, I realized that the closet would be the perfect place for her to begin honing her painting skills. It was small enough that she was likely to finish it, and if she did a truly terrible job, by the time all of her clothing and accessories were in it, we’d never notice a few extra paint blotches, and even if we did, I could always just close the door on them.
Fifteen minutes later, I had a closet that didn’t look half bad and a little girl who was quite proud of herself. I was amazed! Not quite amazed enough to let her go wild on the visible walls, but luckily for her, I had four more closets that needed painting. After she got good at rolling, I took a few minutes and taught her how to cut in the edges. It got a little bit messier, and I realize now that I need to buy the widest painter’s tape I can find for future projects, but she did it!
Not to be outdone, the boys wanted in on the project. The WH set them to work pulling out carpet tacks. The boys quickly set to work racing around the room trying to see who could pull more tacks. They were so dedicated to the task that the next morning, I woke up to the thunking sound of the crowbar and found G hard at work, determined to pull more tacks than his brother for the day.
Having proved that they can stay on task and get things done, I’ve started looking for more “little” jobs that they can do. They make excellent gofers, which is coming in handy as several hundred pounds of new flooring has to be hauled up and down stairs. Whether they realize it or not, they’re learning that they have to work as a team to move the big stuff.
When they inadvertently trapped themselves on the staircase with a garbage bag full of carpet scraps, I stayed out of sight and listened to them negotiate with each other to get unstuck.
They’re learning how to do all sorts of useful things like hold the end of a tape measure and carefully peel painter’s tape off finished surfaces. Occasionally, I sneak a regular old chore like washing a window in, and they’re so caught up in the novelty of home restoration that they do it without complaining.
Instead of waning, their enthusiasm for the projects we still have ahead of us is growing. They’re volunteering to repaint rooms we hadn’t even planned on redoing. They’re starting to get more engaged in things like picking paint colors and deciding how to organize shelves and designating which room will be used for what. I made the mistake of showing E a few ideas that I had for her new bedroom on Pinterest and now she’s an expert at cruising through idea websites and pinning more ideas for every corner of the house.
On a recent trip to Lowe’s, she dragged me into the kitchen area and started pointing out countertops that she thought would look great in our kitchen. I took a photo of a few of them, and when I showed them to the WH, his jaw dropped, and he said, “Wow, I never would have picked something like that, but I think that would look awesome!”
The other day, A said to me that his new bedroom will never be a mess like his current one is.
“Mom, I worked to hard to make my new room nice. I’m never going to make it a mess.”
Knowing his propensity toward messiness, I’m taking that with a grain of salt, but I’m pleased that he’s invested in his work and is learning to appreciate the benefits of hard work.
As much as I would like to turn our house into a showplace worthy of a Better Homes and Gardens photo shoot, it’s all the little imperfect paint drops, slightly crooked floor boards, and crazy color schemes that turn it into our family’s home.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.