Sunday, February 5, 2012

Henry The Builder

When we moved into our house two years ago, Gordy and I had the children draw straws to see who got which room.  Henry, much to his chagrin, chose the shortest straw and therefore, got last choice of room.  He ended up with the smallest bedroom and the one furthest away from his bathroom.  He was a good sport about the situation and Gordy and I were secretly relieved that it hadn't been Josie who chose that tiny straw (she is less easy about such matters).  To make things a little more appealing, I allowed Henry to chose his paint colors, allowed him to have a black, magnetic stripe around his room and I suggested that in the future, we might make him a loft bed so that he could have a couch underneath for sitting room.    

A few weeks ago, I kept that promise and hired a carpenter to build the loft and then I ordered a low-rise couch from Pottery Barn Teens to fill the space left underneath. 

Like all mail order furniture, the couch arrived in four boxes and un-assembled.  I was going to put the couch together myself while Henry was at school and then I thought better of it.  Henry is 11 now and I decided that it would be a great show of maturity, if I allowed him to put the couch together by himself.  

Henry is not the kind of child who often does things all by himself.  This is partially my fault, since Henry is my first child and when he was younger I found it easier and quicker to do things for him.  Henry has a personality which doesn't object to a lot of handholding and I never really pushed him to try doing things on his own.  A decade later, my mindset on what children can and can not do has changed considerably.  I have found myself allowing Josie to do things that I would never have allowed Georgia or Henry to do at her age.  

I've been giving this fact a lot of thought lately and I've decided that the discrepancy is the result of three things:  1.  I've relaxed over the years and have learned that children, when taught, are less destructive and less messy than I had always thought.  2.  "Teaching" once a month at Josie's co-op nursery school forced me to see children cooking, building and crafting and I was able to watch these children learn and master skills that I previously assumed they were too young to do.  3.  My third child is different from my other two children in that she will sit and listen to directions and watch a demonstration before attempting to do the task herself.  This small difference in her personality makes it much more enjoyable to teach her things.  Sorry, but it's true.  

Of course, it has occurred to me that my late-parenting-change-of-heart is wildly unfair and unhelpful to my older two kids.  As far as learning to do things themselves at a young age, Henry and Georgia got a bum rap.  Henry is just as capable of following directions and handling an allyn wrench as his younger sister.  Yet, he's probably never done it.  Why not give him the chance to prove his skills.  I decided it was time for Henry to build himself a couch.... from a flat-pack, I mean!

Henry opened the boxes and took out all the pieces of the couch bases.

He read the directions, put together the screws and laid out the wood in the correct order.

I helped hold the first two sides together while Henry assembled.

Josie acted as photographer - yet another thing I probably wouldn't have allowed Henry to do at age 6.  It's amazing how you notice your parenting inequalities once you start looking for them.

I offered encouragement and a minor piece of advice or two, but I left all the work up to Henry.  

Things were going so well, that I took over photographing from Josie for awhile (and spent a few minutes erasing the 60 random pictures of assorted duct tape that she had taken).

At last the first base was finished:

We took a break for a moment and watched Josie disappear into one of the empty boxes:

She was starting to get bored, so I gave her a garbage bag and asked her to start cleaning up the debris:

and when that didn't hold her attention for long, we watched her play on the loft itself:

and then try out the new "couch."  She found it rather uncomfortable.

Henry finished the second base quickly:

Once the bases were in place, we went down stairs and opened the boxes with the cushions:


Henry's room is really coming together.  The loft still needs a second coat of black paint and it needs to get it silver stripes painted around the top and bottom so that it matches the rest of his walls:

But those are minor details, really.  What's important is that Henry's room is now much more special and he can say with confidence that he built his first piece of furniture.  All by himself!  

His mother is finally growing up - better late than never!


Angie said...

Oh wow, his room looks great! I totally know what you mean by the differences in your children. I have a 13 year old and an 18 month old. My son does things I would have NEVER allowed my daughter to do. I think people probably assume it's because he's a boy but it isn't. I just learned a lot over the years with her and I know what mistakes I made. I think parenting is just that, a learning process. Good for you for letting him put that bed together and good for Henry for accomplishing his task!!!

Lisa said...

His room looks great - love the color. Good for him putting it together and good for you encouraging him to do it!

Martha said...

Angie - I've learned, too! And calmed down a lot. Parenting is such a daily lesson!

Martha said...

Thanks, Lisa! I love that color, too. The paint looked so bright in the can that I was nervous about it... but it was perfect on the walls. I'm hoping to finish painting the loft today (if all goes according to plan which it hardly ever does!)

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