Maybe it was the way that he asked. Maybe it was because it had been so long since I had just hung out with my boys, without having other pressing needs. Perhaps it was half promise from the previous day when the answer to that question was, “Not right now.”
This time I said yes with another question. (Yes, it is a bad habit of mine to not answer question asked, but instead ask another one. It is one of the things about me that my wife finds charming…annoying…one of the two. I can’t remember which.)
“What do you want to do?”
They had been sent outside by their mother because of the loud rambunctious way they had been clearing off the lunch dishes after church. I had thoughts of having to run around in the heat of the day, and almost instantly regretted my response.
~D~ pulled the pocket knife out of his pocket–the one we gave him for his birthday in June: “We haven’t whittled in a while.”
My relief was almost audible. “Sure, we can whittle. Let me get a knife for ~K~.”
Somehow we ended up in the tree house–each with sticks and a pocket knife. Finally getting settled, we started in on the sticks and soon there were slivers of wood and bark all over the floor of the tree house. We jawed away, talking about nothing in particular, but just hanging out together.
Its moments like these that make it worth while. I need to be willing to put things aside more often–the Sunday newspaper can wait, and so can the nap, but such opportunities are fleeting. And there will come a time when they won’t ask me to play–but I hope not.
Now that we’ve finished the tree house, I thought it would be worth while to look back and evaluate the process: What went well? and What I would do differently?
It was the right ages to build the tree house with the boys: They were not too young that they couldn’t help and not too old that they wouldn’t enjoy it.
It was a joint project: They helped design the tree house and helped to build it.
I got the chance to teach them some good building skills and have some “men time” together.
2 words: Power tools (Insert Tim the Tool man grunt here.)
It went up pretty quickly–in 5 work days over a one month period.
It was an opportunity (goal) for me to use this project to teach and instruct as we worked together.
Getting the boys to help pay for it, so that they had skin in the game and an appreciation for what it cost to do the project.
Built-in shaded work area which stayed cool(er) on hot days.
The boys made excellent helpers and had good attitudes.
Cool features: Trap door, rope ladder, bucket and pulley
It give the opportunity to get away individually with each of the kids to talk and just hang out together.
Finally, the “Thanks, Dad for helping us build this! This is great!” that I got from the boys. You can’t buy that in any store.
$$$. Not a cheap investment. Ours was pretty simple, but for a more elaborate setup, you can drop some serious cash.
Extra trips to the hardware store to pick up stuff that I forgot to buy right when we were in the middle of things.
Getting the right materials for the job. I was trying to be economical, but my guestimations for materials were off in several cases. (See previous item.)
Planning. This is one of my weaknesses. I had a hard time visualizing how to do certain things until we got those books.
(Lack of) Patience. There were a couple of days (usually when we forgot to pray ahead of time) where I was worn out just trying to keep my cool between keeping my sons busy and fighting with setbacks in the project. Boiling kettles of frustration, Batman!
Yelling. Usually when the patience was running low. But as we got closer to the end and I was just trying to get done, I found myself barking orders like a drill sergeant.
The wanting to do it alone. There were several things that I could’ve asked the kids to help with, but I didn’t just because it was easier to work alone.
Despite the minor setbacks and frustrations, I would say it was overwhelmingly a positive and worthwhile experience. It allowed me to rekindle some of my own boy hood desires to build a tree house. And I never want to use a hand saw again.
(Note: You can see other posts in this series by going here.)
Now that we’ve finished our tree house, I wanted to share some of the resources that I found useful. There are several books by David & Jeanie Stiles are written directly to those interested in building a tree house, play house or other similar structure. Apparently he does this for a living, because searching on Amazon, he has quite a few more books on the topic.
Luckily, our library had three of these books, which we referred to extensively during the building process: