“Bring that sand back! It’s for making concrete, not for your sandpit!”
Raising children and renovating your home. The two just don’t go together. Like chalk and cheese, or childbirth without pain.
So when my husband and I proudly announced to our family and friends that we were commencing a major extension of our cramped little house, undertaking just about all of the hard yakka ourselves, we received a few knowing snickers to our news.
It’s not that we’re complete idiots with tools, hubby being a tradesman and me being his unofficial ‘apprentice’ for odd jobs around the house. It’s just that we have kids, which we honestly didn’t think would add too much to the equation.
We saw it as a combined effort, with Mr Eight Year Old becoming Dad’s little helper and Mr Four Year Old being kept out of the way by a distracting Mum.
Well, Mr Eight Year Old soon lost interest in his helper role. After all, how can passing the tools ever compare to winning at Star Wars Battlefront on Playstation?
And Mr Four Year Old soon became bored with keeping out of the way. Dismantling Dad’s tool box is much more appealing than listening to a re-run of Winnie the Pooh adventures.
Then along came little Miss Toddler, who was born somewhere between jack hammering the sandstone excavations and building a retaining wall which bears a startling resemblance in size to the Great Wall of China.
The equation just got more complicated.
In spite of this, there are some notable benefits to renovating with kids.
For example, the fact that little Miss Toddler stayed asleep while the roof was sawn open above her bedroom guarantees that she will sleep through absolutely anything.
And Mr Four Year Old’s knowledge of the difference between a bobcat and an excavator, a bearer and a joist, may help him form a successful building company later on in life (in which case, he can build his parents’ next home instead!)
Renovating also gave my husband an opportunity to teach the kids a thing or two.
For instance, little Miss Toddler was taught to obediently put her hands over her ears every time he was about to fire the nail gun or use the power saw.
However, Mr Four Year Old learnt that when you can’t get your toy hammer to do the task, cursing helps. Being nearly identical to the cursing Dad makes when his hammer also fails the job, Mr Four Year Old’s colourful language was not appreciated by Grandma when she was bombarded with it while helping him hammer his play dough pancake.
So here are a few discreet suggestions, if you are foolish enough to renovate your home with your lovely offspring under your feet.
Don’t let your husband give his home building manual to a four year old, expecting him to follow Dad’s progress. Preschoolers work much faster than husbands and will question why Dad is taking so long to just nail a few pieces of wood together.
Encourage your husband to hang your toddler’s swing up in the extension. Not only does it encourage that special bonding between Dad and daughter but it also makes a great babysitter, leaving you to escape the noise and mayhem for a latté with the girls minus the children.
On the downside, you will have to listen to hubby grumbling every time he has to move the swing to make way for a new wall frame.
Tell your husband in no uncertain terms that it is not a good idea to let an eight year old behind the wheel of a mini excavator, unless you want your brand new cubbyhouse wiped out and your favourite lemon tree squashed.
Allow extra time for continual trips to the toilet for a four year old. Unfortunately, playing with piles of sawdust seems to result in a weak bladder.
Don’t ask your kids to help clean up, unless you want sawdust blown in your face, drill bits broken when your toddler drops the drill and your husband’s favourite tape measure thrown out with the rubbish by an over enthusiastic four year old.
And whatever you do, don’t ever ask your husband for an expected finish date. He will have no idea so will either guess or look you in the eye and lie, thinking that will make you happy.He will not realise that you will definitely not be happy once that date has passed by a couple of years or more.
Especially don’t let hubby give the kids a date. They will hold him to it more than you and will remind him day after day that he is way behind schedule and should be up to page 60 of the home building manual instead of being stuck on page 13.
Meanwhile, the sandpit is looking unusually full ……
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem