I always knew my son would follow in my footsteps, so all you haters can shove it. DIY is a lifestyle and Henry’s lived it, from the moment the condom (which I’d crafted out of the intestines of a whole lamb we’d acquired through a now defunct farm-share program) that his father had been wearing broke. I wish I could say I’d made Henry all by myself, but some projects require assistance, even if you didn’t ask for it.
That said, you can’t just join a pottery club or knit a birdcage cover and then tell people you’re really into DIY. When I hear someone do that, I will call it out. I will say to them, “Are you really? Because I see there in your purse a package of store bought tissues. You didn’t happen to grind up your own tree bark, strain it using a very thin sieve, and turn it into super soft facial paper, did you? Oh, and I notice that the car seats in your Honda look eerily like the car seats in the commercial for that Honda. The car seats in my Honda are yellow paisley. Do you know ANYONE with yellow paisley car seats? Also, no offense, but it’s very obvious you get your hair colored professionally. What, can’t be bothered spending a few afternoons a week in your kitchen with a whole bunch of beets and a pair of thick rubber gloves?"
Aside from conceiving my son, only once did one of my projects prove too difficult to do alone. I’d been working on the stroller for a month, in the meantime putting Henry in a repurposed shopping cart swathed in a wool blanket (thanks to the mother of the aforementioned lamb). On the day of the stroller’s trial run, the old shoehorn I’d been using as a brake proved less compliant than I’d hoped. Henry and I were testing it on a hill at the park and, for his trouble, he got to fly headfirst down the frozen grass and I got to watch my life flash before my eyes. It was a powerful reminder of both the necessity of testing homemade brake pedals and of the hassle of strollers.
“This is a sign,” I told my son, as I lifted him up onto his perfectly usable feet. Sure, I could’ve given it another shot, if I’d decided to go down that road, but I didn’t want to go down any roads, particularly sloped ones, after that. And I quickly found alternate uses for all of my stroller material, even the shoehorn (take a closer look at our toilet next time you’re at the house)! Henry started walking soon after, most likely in a fear-based response to what had happened on the hill.
Little did I know, he was just getting started.
I remember it was Halloween a few autumns ago, and Henry was going as a top hat, the whole hat from head to toe. I was finishing up some felt detailing to go along the rim when there was a knock at my sewing room door. It was Henry, all 40” of him, wearing a swim cap covered in packing peanuts. He’d strung them together with dental floss and they went all the way to his shoulders. He had on my oversized black silk blouse.
“You’re out of order,” he said to me. Then he lifted up his right hand and in it, he held our meat cleaver, which he had rubbed in dirt so that it looked like a gavel. He put it right through the wall! I don’t think he knew his own strength (or lack thereof).
I couldn’t have cared less about the wall or about the pounded chicken I was supposed to make later that night. In fact, I told him, I said, “I’ll just use your baseball bat, honey, I don’t care, I am so proud of you right now. Fuck this stupid hat.” My friend Stacy saw us from her stoop later that evening and called out, “You let your five year-old walk out of the house with a meat cleaver?” I yelled back, “I think I recognize that pumpkin costume Olivia’s wearing. Oh yeah, it’s from Rite Aid!”
When Henry snapped at me earlier today at the lumberyard, “I can do it myself, Mom,” yanking the reclaimed wood right out of my hands and nearly concussing a bearded gentleman in three-quarter length pants a few feet away, I knew we’d come full circle. For weeks, Henry’s been complaining about feeling constrained in his playroom.
I said to him, “Well, Henry, if you want more room, make more room.” So he’s building a room. It’ll be an addition adjacent to the garage. He’s out there now with the barn boards from this morning. I tell my friends, when they say things like, “A seven year-old boy can only grasp a fraction of the civil engineering principles necessary to do that!” and “Those planks are twice his height!” and “I’m pretty sure Henry just sliced a finger with that child-sized saw” that the only way to learn how to DIY is to DIY.
Also, Henry’s been giving himself stitches since he was five. Give me a break.