When we first moved into our new house, the guest bathroom in the basement needed a towel rack to be hung on the wall.
After a marathon session, I was finally able to finish the job. The rack was slightly askew, as if it was hung by a person in the midst of a vertigo attack. Its placement on the wall could be described as precarious at best. One false move — which could include someone merely stepping out of the shower — and the whole thing could come crashing down.
“That rack should be okay, provided nobody hangs any wet towels on it,” I announced to Sonia, without the slightest hint of sarcasm.
And that story describes my handyman abilities in a nutshell.
I can proudly tell you that I own a toolbox in the same way that most people own a treadmill. Basically, it just sits in our storage room in the basement and collects dust. If I didn’t already work in television, I would be a natural to star in an episode of Canada’s Worst Handyman. In fact, I think I would nail the audition — marking the only time in my life I actually nailed anything with some degree of success. None of my friends can picture me wearing a tool belt outside of taking part in a YMCA skit.
So when we have odd jobs to do inside the house, Sonia will usually be the one to take charge.
This role reversal started many years ago, when we went through the IKEA phase of our relationship. We would buy some simple piece of furniture and bring it back to our apartment in our Dodge Neon. For me, just being able to fold down the rear seats to fit the box inside the car was a massive accomplishment.
Upon opening the contents of the box, I would immediately become frustrated by the instructions. It actually didn’t matter what language those IKEA instructions came in, because it may as well all have been written in Korean. There was always an extra arm or hand on the diagrams that didn’t make sense. And if I did manage to miraculously put together the item, we always had a collection of extra screws, nuts and bolts that left everyone with a sense of impending doom.
So gradually, all of the handyman duties shifted to Sonia. If a room needed to be painted, she would take charge. If a picture needed to be hung, she would do all of the work. We nearly filed for a divorce when we had to assemble the baby crib, because that piece of furniture required more attention to detail than the IKEA bookshelf that was standing at a 45-degree angle in the corner of the room.
And if some major work needs to be done around our house, we would just wait for one of Sonia’s relatives to show up.
Sonia’s entire extended family is handy to the point where some of them make their own furniture, which I suppose is a prerequisite of being a German Mennonite. They all grew up making things out of wood, patching holes in drywall and raising barns.
In contrast, I spent most of my Grade 8 year trying to get past the Hammer Brothers in the original Super Mario game. (For the record, I did it successfully and rescued the princess).
But when Sonia’s family comes over to visit, I don’t feel emasculated in the least bit. Sonia’s dad fixed a hole underneath our shed when he came to visit this past summer, because some skunks had moved in. When he went to use our cordless power drill, he was surprised to find it had no power. I’m a stickler for charging my Blackberry, but to be honest with you, I can’t remember the last time I would have charged that drill. I didn’t feel ashamed in the least bit because being a handyman just isn’t one of my strengths.
Her brother-in-law is coming to build us a deck this spring and he’s asked for my help. I’m sure he’s just humouring me so that I can say that I had a hand in building the deck in our own backyard. In reality, this is the equivalent of the high school basketball team letting the blind kid come in and take a free throw at the end of the game.
The way I look at it is like this: Not every father out there is going to be an expert with tools — just like not every mother is going to be great in the kitchen. Dads who are terrible as handyman shouldn’t be ashamed, because I think it’s important to show your kids that you’re not perfect at everything in life. We all have limitations and there’s no point pretending to be something that you’re not. I still think I can be a strong male role model for my daughters, even though I treat each trip to Home Depot like a visit to the dentist.
I’m trying to build a good foundation for our kids — without actually knowing how to build a good foundation. And quite frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with that.