Preparations for the birth of my second daughter led me to an unexpected moment of self-discovery: As I get older, I’m getting craftier. I don’t mean that I’m becoming more cunning or guileful (quite the opposite, I suspect). But rather that, more and more, I get a kick out of making stuff.
It began, innocently enough, with the preparation of the new baby’s nursery, which involved stripping some hideous blue grass-cloth wallpaper before priming and painting the walls. But soon my wife and I determined that we could keep the shelving unit built into the closet (a holdover from the previous owners), but the front panels of its drawers would need some sprucing up.
After some thoughtful Googling, we settled on Winnie-the-Pooh imagery. Soon I was up to my (metaphorical) neck in Mod Podge and decoupage. I was pleased enough with the drawers, but they soon became a gateway craft.
I wanted to do something for our oldest daughter’s room and soon I was arranging some prefab wooden pieces into a circular bookcase and table. Once the paint dried I was decoupaging again, this time chasing it with a shiny, protective topcoat. The result was a success, and though I could see a few little flaws, the next project was already calling: a Groucho Marx clock with a spinning mustache and cigar; a Freddy Krueger clock followed.
When I discovered a couple of cheap Ikea spice racks in the back of a closet last week, I didn’t hesitate before painting them and hanging them in the new baby’s room. They’re perfect for displaying picture books or stuffed animals. I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders now. My eldest needs some bookends for the top of her dresser and, believe you me, I’ve got a few ideas.
But parenting — especially since the new baby’s arrival — can feel like a never-ending journey. There’s always another bathtime, another bedtime, another strange rash that makes the doctor shrug, but say he’s not worried. The satisfaction that completes these little projects is short-lived, but it’s real and it’s energizing and it makes a nice contrast to the ongoing struggles of fatherhood. I will make this, I am making this, I have finished making this, I made that — it’s a nice feeling.
And it’s a feeling that I definitely want to share with my girls. After all, they are the ones who are inspiring a lot of these projects and the ones that I hope will use them. But including them will require me to give up some of the absolute control that make these projects appealing in the first place. I’ll need to keep my occasional bouts of fastidiousness in check, which could be another never-ending journey in itself.
But my first, limited foray into sharing my new hobby went well. I invited the 3-year-old to help me paint the spice racks green so they matched the accent wall in the baby’s room. I put her in an old T-shirt of mine, spread out a drop cloth and did my best to let her go to town with her brush, only cautioning her to smooth out a few occasional drips. A few small touch-ups were needed, but when she was done, we were done.
“Good work,” I told her. And I meant it.