I should have taken a picture, because it was too cute for words. There she sat on the couch, stud-finder in hand and her daddy’s ballcap (the one with the fancy LED lights for seeing in dark spaces) firmly set on her head.
“Mama, did you know that there are suds in the walls?”
“Suds, baby? Or studs?”
She smiled, “Oh, yes,” she giggled, “I mean studs, Mama, there are studs in the wall. Daddy and me found them with this.” She waved the yellow stud-finder. “I’ll show you, Mama.” She jumped up, walked over to the living room wall, and waved at me. “You press the button here,” the machine beeped in response, “and move it around until you find the suds…I mean studs.”
That was a week ago.
It had followed a repair of my shoe shelving in the master closet, in which Emily had been very involved in. She helped Dave find the stud and make the necessary repairs where a part of the shelving had been pulled out of the wall.
A few days before that I had told Dave, “I want her to learn everything…oil changes, carpentry work, even plumbing.”
He laughed, “What, worried you won’t have anyone to do it when I die?”
“No, I don’t want her to have to depend on anyone for something she can do herself.”
That seemed to satisfy him. And when I asked him to fix the shoe shelves, he made sure that Emily was right by his side. She loved it, you could hear the excitement in her voice when he told her he needed her help. And help she did, while learning the basics of a new skill.
But it is more than that. It is more than the hope for her to feel independent that prompted my encouragement of teaching home repair. Not having to depend on anyone, knowing how to fix something yourself is great, but it is the feeling you have when you first attempt it that is the most important. And that is what I want to get across to her - the feeling or belief that she can do anything she sets her mind to.
If you had that feeling, even when faced with something you had never done or knew nothing about, how likely is it that you would be successful? Pretty darn likely. It is the attitude in which we approach a challenge that makes the difference.
There is a second part to that, however.
When Emily was three she brought me a piece of paper and a pen and asked me to draw an ‘A’. “Why don’t I show you how to draw it?”
Her answer cracked a line in my heart, “I don’t know how.”
Over the next few months, we encountered more and more of those statements, about a variety of tasks that seemed, at the moment, overwhelming to her. Along the way I would say, “No one knows how to do things at first, they try and they learn, and eventually, if they keep at it, they get really good. Just keep trying and watch what happens.”
At first, she was unsure, disbelieving, but eventually, she began to try, and learn, and grow, and excel at those things that had at first seemed so intimidating.
Faith and persistence is the second thing I would have her learn from all of this. Faith in herself and her abilities, and the persistence to stay with the task and not give up.
I think that if we go about a wide variety of tasks and challenges, then we will see an end-product that is confident, persistent, and open to new challenges and learning adventures.
And along the way, we will raise a daughter who can find studs, do carpentry, fix plumbing, maintain vehicles, cook, clean, operate electronics, garden, and so much more.
Robert Heinlein, a great science fiction author and free thinker once wrote:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Words to live by…