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The Birthday Gift

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Shawn Trautman Lessons - Life - Learning - Blog by SHAWN TRAUTMAN @shawntrautman

This one’s worth the read (and the video’s good too, but don’t do one without the other).
— —

Versions 12.6 and 10.4 of my younger two are not best of friends.

At times, I’d say it’s quite the opposite.

If you heard their conversations, you’d agree with me and swear one had a Confederate uniform on and the other a Union.

Somehow, though, they’re S L O W L Y learning to work together (one day they might even enjoy it).

Over the last 22 days they’ve jumped in and out of a project for their older sister’s birthday. And yes, they’re 2 months late.
They looked at a picture of a finished corner desk with no dimensions and then had to figure out how to build it.

“What’s the right height for a desk?” “How tall is a normal chair?” “How much room do legs need to tuck in?” “How does a keyboard tray work” “How big of a space do we have to work with?”… you know, normal stuff.

How’d it go?

“I can’t stand to work with him!” and “she’s the worst partner ever!” are two (2) of what seemed like hundreds of interestingly chosen phrases during this project.

Here’s the deal though, I’m supervising (more like a referee), but not making any decisions or actually doing any part of it. I’m asking questions for them to answer and I’m answering some (not all) of their questions as we go. It’s painful, but necessary. They need to know they can do it on their own.

“Well, you haven’t done anything to help!” one of them said. “Yeah, dad, it’s not like you’re doing anything!” the other quips.

“What exactly are they learning?” Joanna asked, and my answer was a long one.

Project planning. Reverse engineering. Math. Critical thinking. Teamwork. Communication. Precision. Organization.
Resourcefulness. Dependability. Respectfulness. Safety. Cleanliness. Handling mistakes. Follow-through. Pacing. Requirements. Stability. Functionality.

When I add the tools they used the list looks this:

Mitre saw, hand saw, ruler, level, router, 6 types of clamps, drill, jigsaw, phillips & flathead screwdrivers, wood glue, wood putty, nail gun, connection plates, disc sander, sandpaper by hand, n95 mask, safety glasses, vice, wood pencils, Kreg jig, drill bits for pilot holes & countersinking, vice grips, 2 different files, pneumatic roller seat, circular saw, 9-in-1s, shop-vac, wood screws, tape measure, hammer, finishing nails, nail punch, speed square, 3/4 extensions (for keyboard drawer) and a broom.

Types of wood they used:

1x2s, 1x3s, 1x4s, 1x12s, 3/4” plywood, 1/4 rounds, and 1/4×2” trim pieces.

Did they yell, fight, scream, say mean things, hurt each other, and do dumb stuff?

I’ll answer with… “What was important was that they showed up each day and worked until they finished.“

Are they woodworking experts? Uh, no.

Are they now super competent and confident in all these skills? Also no.

But, did they do a great job? It’s not commercial grade, but mostly a yes.

Was this super painful to watch and listen to? Also, mostly a yes.

Did one of them intentionally kick the pneumatic roller seat out from the other and cause a fall & subsequent scream fest? Um… I plead the 5th.

Am I proud of them for getting through it alive? Ah, yay… one I can answer definitively. Wholeheartedly, YES!

You see, I’m currently working through an interesting stage of responsibility with both of them that I feel is necessary beyond what can be learned in a book.

And, for the record, this project brought many side lessons. Paying attention to details. Being responsible for your actions.

Understanding that what you say, how you say it, and what you do matters. Controlling your emotions. Keeping hands to yourself. Taking direction. Giving direction. Being considerate. Dealing with failures. Celebrating successes. Working with teammates you don’t necessarily like. Completing projects. Developing a solid work ethic. Using scrap wood. Cleaning as you go. Putting things back where they belong.

Unfortunately, they also learned about rework and how frustrating losing time, energy & resources can get. They also learned first-hand how important it is to have 2 angles equal 90 degrees and that being a “little off” or “missing the mark” can have ripple effects that don’t age like a fine wine.

All in all, there were lots of great lessons along the way if I look past the pain of watching it all come together.

Truth be told, I’m a bit numb from this experience. And, this may have adversely affected my recent posts and for that I won’t apologize. Okay, maybe a little.

And no, they’re clearly not super efficient yet, but they ARE a little better than they were a couple of weeks ago. And smarter. And more experienced. And thankful for this time.

I hope, anyway. 🙂

Life is what you make it, and in this case, it was also HOW they made it.


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