My daughter walked into the kitchen this morning, carrying a wickedly dangerous object.
Before I could open my mouth, she handed me the awl and said, “Here mommy. This is sharp. You better put it away.” I was relieved, mostly because she had no puncture wounds, but also because she’d been listening (sort of) when I asked her not to play with tools and to always let me know if she ever encountered anything pointy. I thanked her as she skipped away. Then I quietly had an anxiety attack in the bathroom.
It’s just another day at our house. We recently moved in — just four months after breaking ground — and needless to say, we’re living in, on and under a construction zone. We’re talking makeshift kitchen, plywood floors and no shower (until week two of occupation). Fortunately, my old soul of a daughter is a remarkably cautious kid. As a baby, she never tried to climb out of her crib. When she learned to walk, she didn’t attempt to scale the baby gates and now, at three years old, she insists her dad “be careful” when powering up the table saw.
My husband Geoff and I have slightly different approaches when it comes to safety and children. I am a childproofer, driven by paranoia as in, best to nail the window shut so the zombies can’t get in. He, on the other hand, grew up on a farm where, by the time you were eight, you were driving the tractor and if the instructions “when it’s hot, don’t touch it” weren’t followed …misery was the end result.
Meanwhile, my mom — who incidentally, along with my father, allowed me (as a preschooler) to walk on the roof of our house while a layer of tar was being applied — has always believed that if you explain why something is dangerous, rather than just saying “no”, then youngsters will have a clear understanding of what can and can’t kill them.
So, part of my daughter's carefulness on the building site we call home stems from the fact that we’ve included her in all aspects of the process. She’s watched her dad (and others) take proper safety precautions and we’ve all talked so much about every little detail, I’m amazed her tiny ears haven’t fallen off.
In doing so, we’ve fostered in her an interest in carpentry, plumbing and construction, in general. This sometimes presents a problem when Geoff wants to get something done in a hurry, but there’s nothing like a little one to teach us how to slow down the pace.
As a result, at the tender age of 40 months, our girl has a healthy respect for tools after having already screwed several sheets of plywood and drywall in place, glued ceramic tiles onto the floor and hammered pieces of hardwood into position — all with adult assistance, of course.
Some kids squeal at the prospect of a brand new toy. Others get a kick out of candy. My daughter cheers every time my husband hooks up another toilet. And, unlike most kids her age, she knows the septic tank is the ultimate destination of whatever goes down the drain.
Except for houseflies.
Houseflies that exit the house via the crapper always end up at the fly fair, where they happily reunite with their friends. At least, that’s how it works, at our house.