What is our basement known as?
a) Where the Laundry Train Broke Down
b) Where Air Goes to Die
c) The Perpetual Dumping Grounds of Crap That Has No Home
d) All of the Above.
It is known by all of the above.
In the first five years we have lived here we have managed to rip up the golden speckled shag carpets, paint the cement flooring, provided a loving home to some gym equipment that is actually used and dreamed up some big plans on how to USE the space for living instead of storage.
So we finally got to this stage. We had totally decluttered the basement and were ready to reclaim this space to make it an amazing playspace for the kids.
DEMOLITION….with kids running around
We started tearing off all the ancient cedar panelling. our three small kids running around us.
About an hour into it Conor turned to me and said, ‘I never thought this would happen’.
It was funny because I had just been laughing at myself, that the old me would have NEVER have done renos like this with toddlers running around. I mean, we had renovated our upstairs, but we only had one kid and it was done during naps or while one of us watched Levi. But not with two toddlers, oh dear, never three toddlers! Too much danger, too much stress, too much chaos.
I like things easy and renos with toddlers is not easy. I don’t know if it was learning about the enneagram to see this ‘incapability-based-mindset’ in myself and trying to redirect it – or if it was the crescendoing buildup of Pinterest dreams in my mind – or maybe it was because I was desperate for the kids to have their own space to explore, play, get active, creative, and crazy.
So there we were! Wielding hammers, drills and brooms and for some reason, I’m dressed like a woodland sprite…
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Before kids, we would renovate all the time. Sure it sucked to do as ‘young people in love’. It was like tossing a stick of dynamite into a new marriage and each partner had a different idea on how to handle it. Thankfully, when we started we had both our Dads to come stay with us and help us along the process.
Both of us love renovating, I love the big lofty visioning of a space, he loves getting things done and done well. So the demo process was a reawakening of that passion in us, and we actually brought our kids along with us!
As the kids hammered old boards, licked wrenches and swept up with dusty cobwebs and scraps, I remembered my own childhood.
My dad spent the better part of our childhood renovating our homes. I can still remember the pride of holding a metal, pingy hammer with two cautious hands to swing at the nail he designated as ‘my job’.
I could be the gopher grabbing him different tools, inherently knowing the worn wooden ones passed on from my grandpa’s hands to my dad’s.
I would revel in the smell of sawdust while I silently and dutifully held a piece of plywood for cutting.
I would spend spare moments sweeping and tidying that changing space we were sharing, to keep the job moving forward and myself useful.
Those times are some of my most cherished. I learned so much from both mine and Conor’s father over the years. Now I hope to pass that we can pass that legacy on to our children.
Here are five things I hope our kids learn from being part of our home renovations
1. Working as a team.
I can’t expect too much from them. After all, it took Conor and I – in all our adult sensibilities – a few solid years to manage this (not including the Collaborative Furniture Assembly learning curve).
But as we worked away I heard Levi giving orders to his siblings, taking turns with hammers and the step ladder, helping us out with little tasks. Maybe it was the novelty but they really worked to be part of the project and carry the load.
Sure, there is a hierarchy in any family, but we hope they can learn to follow, lead and that families can and do work together as teams.
2. Being useful
With any project, there is the fun work (demolition, drilling the final screw) and the not-fun work (sweeping the spider webs, pulling nails, cleaning up the shoe closet because someone had an accident in there while looking for ‘prettier shoes’). Always keeping yourself busy means the job is always moving forward.
We hope our kids learn to do this on their own motivation and find jobs they can do when their task is done, but for now, it might involve lots of snack picnics, cuddle breaks and playing hide and seek in all the spaces they never frequent.
3. Sensing danger
A renovation site has dangers and this was always a hold up for me to include them in the reno process. But as I heard Dawson motioning to different parts of the basement and telling me ‘hawwwwt’ I knew he was learning about danger and using his sense to avoid it.
Levi spent a large portion of time asking us ‘will our house break?’ and then hammering a piece of wood til it broke in two. Of course, he hit his thumb and we both told him stories about when we did that as kids.
Our living space is very kid-proof but I know that real life is the best way to teach them how to spot and navigate dangers. This will always be a struggle for me to let them do this, BUT I did spend the entire morning being overcautious and protecting my eyes from any nails that might fly off while we pulled of the wall panelling….then at lunch I flicked balsamic vinegar in my eye while eating a salad…so maybe I’ve got to remember some perspective:
boards and nails = manageable danger
salad = imminent danger awaits, possibly short-term blindness.
4. Being the architect of your space
Renovating your home can be a metaphor for renovating your life. It means having a vision for a space, gathering resources, demolishing what is there to make way for what can be, and staying committed to seeing it through to the final detail.
I hope they can learn that they are in control of more things in life than they will want or realize. One of them is the home you live in. You can control HOW you live in a home by altering what the space is.
5. The art of construction.
Every carpenter has his own tricks that he learned from another carpenter. As our fathers passed on their knowledge and tips, we will pass them on to whichever kid is listening (probably not the one looking for pretty shoes…but we’ll see).
The art of construction has layers of budgeting, resourcing, planning, making a new plan, seeking advice and well, the physical construction. We live in times where these talents are outsourced, and sure, if we had the money we would too, but while we are the ones doing that work, we can show these little apprentices who are joining in all the capacities of construction. You know, teaching lifeskillz between snack breaks, Frozen reruns and diaper changes. Or something like that.
We all leave different legacies to our children. Some pass on the travel bug, a love for cooking or the satisfaction of finding a great deal. A legacy that our own kids will have will include some kitchen dance skills, hammering nails and eating waffles for dinner (and lunch) (and breakfast) (and second breakfast)
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