My son is three, which means he has a biological need to help with all of the fun projects that Daddy does around the house. Little boys need to prove how indispensable they are to the proper functioning of the household.
This is a slow process. It will take him until he is about 12 to convince me that I am utterly dependent upon him. When he is 12, we will enjoy just about 3 months of the perfect father-son, symbiotic relationship. Then, nature will endow him with the blessings of teenager-hood, and it will take a girl to get him to do anything.
Since his little girlfriends aren’t likely to beguile him into mowing my lawn, I should get all the work I can out of him before they show up. Unfortunately, a three-year-old’s zeal is hardly ever matched by his handy-man skills. Still, you can’t help but admire the level of enthusiasm.
If I want my boy to instantly appear, all I need do is get out my toolbox. Screwdrivers are his favorite. He will carry a screwdriver around with him for hours, tightening everything in his path, including screws and anything else that needs to be stabbed and turned.
He likes hammers too. Hammers fit in well with his natural love of hitting. He has an uncommon zest for fixing things by pounding them until they are right. Whatever you’ve got that needs adjustment, a wall, a window, a kneecap, he’ll take care of it with his hammer. And he’ll do it all for the intangible reward of being helpful.
A boy who loves screwing things in could hardly avoid falling in love with changing light bulbs. You know the new bulbs? The ones that are all twisty-shaped, save energy by keeping your rooms dim, and are jammed full of poisonous mercury? He really enjoys handling those, because if you want to keep kids from being drawn to something toxic, by all means make it look like a soft-serve ice cream cone. I don’t let him help me so much with these, which really saddens him because he is sure in his heart that he could show me how to install them more efficiently with his hammer.
In the winter, my son helps me shovel snow. He follows behind me, shoveling snow from the piles I’ve created and dumping it over his shoulder, down his back, and onto the freshly-cleared sidewalk. Between the two of us, we have cut the job down so that we do only three times the shoveling I did when I had to do it all by myself.
In summer, he helps me weed the flowerbeds. He picks those especially troublesome weeds with all the orange, yellow, and red soft parts at the top. These weeds attract bees, and bees can sting people. I know he wonders how someone who has been gardening as long as I have could miss the most obvious weeds in the whole garden. Silly Daddy wastes his time on the little green sprouts in between when it is the big, colorful weeds that are using up all the space on top.
It requires extra time to be helped by a three-year-old, but it’s time well spent. I cherish his desire to help, because one day he’ll be 12, and that is practically the cusp of 13. I won’t be as cool then as I am now. Some little girl will come along and steal his attention. What kind of selfish girl would take away the helper of an old man with battered kneecaps?