How Handiwork Can Bring Dads and Daughters Closer Together

When I was young, I used to help my dad fix everything. Broken leg on the table? We fixed it. Cracked mortar in the wall? We fixed it. Leaky hose in the back of the toilet tank? We made it worse and, after six trips to Home Depot and lots of muffled swearing, we called a plumbing professional who gave me a lollipop and gave my dad a bill that led to unmuffled swearing.

I look back on some of those wonderful memories all the time. I remember being the greatest helper in the world and, if it weren’t for me, I assume my dad would have never been able to fix anything on his own. I was just that awesome.

Twenty-some-odd-years later, as a Dad, I’m now in charge of the fixes around my house. I also am lucky enough to employ several of my own little helpers who are eager to lend a hand in any way they can, especially if it involves hammering on my ankles. They are excited and ready to do anything I ask. “Bring me the screwdriver,” I say. “Yes Dad!” they say, and within seconds, one of them enthusiastically hands me a wrench.

So when I sat down to replace the bathroom faucet, it wasn’t just me, it was me and my team. My HandyKlems Team. We were a team built on determination, intelligence and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. We could tackle any project at hand, so long as wasn’t during naptime. And, other than the occasional pee break, we’d spend every minute working until the job was complete (mainly because the iPad was out of battery). We were ready.

We stared at that leaky faucet for awhile, trying to diagnose the problem.

Me: “I think the washer seal has gone bad. What do you think?”
Helper #1: “I think I should hammer it.”
Helper #2: “I think we should hit it with this thing.” (Points to crowbar.)
Helper #3: “My favorite color is green.”

After careful inspection, the vote was 4-1 in favor of hitting it with something. Unfortunately our house is not a democracy, so my wife’s vote overruled ours and we were forced to replace the faucet instead.

I climbed under sink, squeezing into a bathroom cabinet the size of a football helmet, slowly unbolting everything that needed unbolting. My team sat around me, one of them watching my every move, one of them trying to squeeze in the cabinet with me and one of them standing on my legs as if they were a step stool.

“Can I help?” says the one squeezed into the cabinet with me.

“Not right now, sweetie. I promise I’ll let you help in a minute.”

She “helps” anyway by twisting the shut-off valve and letting water spray all over us.

“Hey, why does she get to help?” asks Helper #2 who waswatching my every move but is now, for no particular reason, unrolling the toilet paper and wrapping it around her arm.

“Turning on the water when the valve is unhooked is not helping.”

Just then, Helper #3 decides to jump, landing back on my shins, ripping out every hair follicle on my legs with the rubbery sole of her size 5 shoes. I scream. She screams. I hit my head in a pipe. Helper #1, now leaning on my throat, manages to get her hand caught in one of the holes now vacated by the faucet.

It’s believed that Winston Churchill coined the phrase, “I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat and tears,” but this is not true. The phrase was first uttered by a Dad who was trying to fix the bathroom sink with his kids.

Did we eventually fix the faucet? Sure. Were the kids excited to use the new, fun, fancy faucet? Not really. They were too busy pretending the tools were telephones. But after the struggle I went through and the battle wounds I suffered, I felt mighty proud of that faucet. Team HandyKlems came through in the clutch once again. My dad would have been proud.

“You know I want you to replace the other bathroom faucet too, right?” my wife said.

Unmuffled swearing commence. 

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