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Our Story Begins:
A Repairing Relationship

Years ago, I had a colleague who had a problem with her car. Her boyfriend at the time – to paraphrase her words – had no idea what to do.  I, on the other hand, pulled up, popped the hood, and gave her a jump start. When the battery wouldn’t hold charge I told her I’d help her get a new one. I pulled out my toolbox, grabbed my socket set, and proceeded to ratchet the terminals off the battery. Within moments I heard her boyfriend speaking in wondrous terms about how marvelous this contraption was that I was using.

It was a socket wrench. I think every guy I grew up with had a set and was using it.

I say this, misogynistic as it sounds, because it was just what we all did growing up. We were guys. We fixed things. We had tools. It wasn’t unusual.


I grew up wanting to spend time with my Dad, as did most of my friends, I suppose. That meant when we had to maintain the cars, fix a bookshelf, put together furniture . . . anything that was needed . . . we were there with him. When he was under the car changing the oil I was, too. He’d ask for a Phillips screwdriver I’d grab one. Eventually, I did all those things myself. When something broke I didn’t wait, I fixed it myself. I changed the oil and filter in my own car.

Related: Our Story Begins: Practicing What You Preach

The last couple weeks have been a flurry of repairs in my home and it showed me how little my kids have learned. It’s not because I didn’t want to teach them, it’s the fact that things have changed – maybe not for the better in some ways.

This last few weeks my house has seen a flurry of repairs. My car had a bad radio so I bought a new one. I asked my son to grab my needle-nosed pliers from the toolbox so I could wire the new radio. The tool fascinated him as did the work on the car. For more than an hour he sat, rapt at attention. Kitchen chairs we’d owned for years were now decrepit. My new ones arrived and needed assembly and since they were decent chairs, they needed tools. My sons watched as I put them all together. When I asked for a phillips screwdriver I got a blank stare.

Then came the bed.

My son’s bed has a lip, which you can see up there in the picture, that just snapped.  (No comment on how many times I told them NOT to jump on the beds) I was going to get another bed but my son wanted me to fix it. I asked why and he said, sadly, “I have a lot of memories in that bed.”

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His mother, who passed away over three years ago, tucked him into that bed, every night, even when her knees hurt and she walked slowly. This bed transports him into his past and he desperately wanted to keep it. So I bought the lumber, drilled and offset the holes . . . and repaired it. It wasn’t easy, but it was cheaper than the new bed. Both boys watched, something they hadn’t done before.

I explained it all to them: every home needs a set of good screwdrivers. We need several Phillips, or star-head . . . and flat-head. You need a pair of pliers. I showed them how handy Vice-Grips are and the proper way to use a circular saw to cut the wood I was using for the bed. I showed them how to use the tools and why they are a necessity – because fixing things is sometimes your only option.

We are a society driven by short attention spans today. Furniture comes pre-assembled. It comes with tools suited only for the Ikea-style prefab materials and they’re not meant to be used over and over again. Cars are so filled with technology that we cannot get to the oil filter easily and there’s no easy way to dispose of the used oil. Because of all this, I haven’t spent near as much time doing these things. Because of that . . . neither have my kids.

But after the last couple weeks, now that I see how little I’ve shown them . . . that’s going to change.

What about your kids? Do they know the basics of using tools, repairs, household things? Or do you simply buy things to replace the old ones?