Yesterday, when I was asking the following question of myself (and of you, gentle reader):
Where would my daughter go to learn this type of self-reliance if I wasn't around to teach her? To learn to confidently hold a hammer or a wrench and keep her living space safe, manageable and comfortable?
...I thought I was just doing some everyday
muttering to myself like a crazy person philosophical musing. But then I really, really thought about it.
Where did I learn to do what I attempt each day--fixing appliances I own, and having the nerve to slice through the bathroom wall?
My earliest memory of the existence power tools is from watching others use them. My family moved to a rented farmhouse in rural Ohio when I was six years old and I developed a crush on the landlord's eldest son. I followed him everywhere like a faithful puppy and, bless his heart, he was a kind and patient teenager who didn't mind. I watched him repair and build and maintain all the buildings and the farm machinery and he answered all of my goofy questions. So, David, where ever you are now, thanks a ton.
I also watched my dad build things around the house after we moved to Pennsylvania. Then, shop class. I cannot say enough fantastic things about shop class in middle school. Our shop teacher was a grumpy old man who didn't buy into girly cries of "But I can't do that!" He treated all of us equally and gave us some pretty cool projects to complete.
All of these experiences made me confident about trying volunteer work. It has always been a pleasure to work for Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and Cabrini Alive, especially since they aren't bashful about needing help and putting a novice who is willing to carry a hammer next to someone more experienced.
And finally, the internet. I can't even begin to tell you how much I have learned from the internet.
Let's be honest, though. I don't wield a Sawzall with reckless abandon. Years after I first held one in my hands, I still get a twinge of nervousness when I pick one up. It is a powerful tool. This thing could cut your arm off. It is WISE to be careful around it. But someone, somewhere encouraged me to face my apprehension and give it a try. I survived and my arm is still attached. So, I keep trying it over and over.
But, what if my daughter didn't have the opportunity to watch someone using power tools while growing up? Or have a shop class teacher to goad her into trying something daring since those programs are becoming more and more scarce? Sure, the internet is here, but how about those up close, hands-on experiences that I benefited from?
I keep having this same silly daydream. So, bear with me here.
In this daydream, the City of Chicago lets me use some of their wood shops for a Saturday morning class. I get a sponsor--maybe a tool manufacturer or a local hardware store--to donate some supplies and some power tools. And I teach young girls and women a variety of classes to make them more comfortable with DIY, making sure that low income families. My goal? To help others with their DIY Confidence.
In Tool Basics, they would get the opportunity to use hand tools, power drills, chop saws, routers, reciprocating saws, et cetera. We'd talk about what each one is useful for and when you would choose to use one or the other. In Plumbing Basics, there would be a hands-on project for disassembling and assembling basic plumbing components, how to stop a leak, how to diagnose a problem, how to unclog a drain with a snake or auger, how to install a faucet. We'd have a hands-on class for restoring wood windows and another one for maintaining and repairing radiators. If I partnered with someone, maybe we would even have a class on how to do simple electrical repairs--replacing a light fixture, repairing a light switch, installing a ceiling fan. (I'd take that class myself!) And basic appliance repair...we'd take apart a dishwasher or a clothes dryer! With our bare hands! Whoo hoo!
Books and television shows are accessible, but they don't push you to overcome any nervousness you might have about DIY, they're not hands-on, and they don't allow you the opportunity to ask questions. I know Home Depot has these "how to" clinics, but they seem geared towards getting you to install new things (that you buy at Home Depot--surprise!) Home Depot doesn't even sell the PARTS I need to fix my radiator, they aren't going to teach me how to repair it.
Maybe these workshops exist and I'm just looking in the wrong places.
But I keep thinking about how COOL it would be if every woman I knew felt confident about stepping into a hardware store. That the different sizes and types of nails, screws, nuts and bolts weren't overwhelming to her. That she was excited to buy her own power drill and she felt comfortable picking up that drill and using it because she has done it before, successfully.
Yes, that would be very cool. And while we are at it, world peace, please. Amen.