Big Little Man
by Amanda Haumesser Wallace
It’s never too early to begin teaching children things, regardless their age. Even before the little ones are walking, Doug and I are including them in our everyday activities — not ALL the time because we’d lose our sanity from the often endless questions and statements, but we involve them enough. I’ll set them on top of the Hoosier while I’m mixing up a meal or washing dishes, or I’ll have them outside helping with one of my building projects, laundry, gardening and so forth. Doug is the same way. He’s got them out there helping him with firewood, tinkering on one thing or the next, and will often have one or several little helpers sitting next to him as he’s working on a vehicle. As a habit, Doug explains things to the kids even when they’re not entirely capable of talking in full sentences yet. He’s telling them the names of tools and what they’re used for and showing them parts of the vehicle and its function as he goes. Most times the little helper is toying with random tools and scraps of wood, but you wonder just how much they’re actually learning or understanding. At first I thought giving them all that info was a bit too premature, but now I’m not so sure.
Will, our five-year-old is almost always right there in the mess of things when Doug is working on the ol’ Durango. So often, he’s running into the house to fetch a tool for Papa and is telling me the names of what he’s looking for. Half the time I don’t even know, so as I’m rummaging through the tool chest with him, I’ll pull out one tool or the next to hand him hoping it’s the right one. But most times he tells me that’s not what he’s after. Finally he’ll spy it and take off with glee.
I will admit, him learning the names and functions of the tools at only five-years-old is impressive, but I had my doubts that he was fully understanding how things worked on a vehicle and how to fix them.
With sumac and elderberry season in full swing, I’m going out every other day to harvest. I’ll usually take a child or two with me to help, so this time I had Will and Sam. About seven miles down the gravel road I started to hear something that sounded like metal grinding on metal on one of our back tires. I’d been hearing that sound on occasions before while I was out, but it would eventually disappear. This time however it wasn’t. I was driving pretty slow in order to spot berries, so I figured I wasn’t causing too much damage. But the sound was unnerving. It sounded like our brake shoes were crumbling into little bits.
Will stuck his head out the window to listen, then stated, “Sounds like there’s a rock between the tire.” He sounded so matter-of-fact, I had to smile. “Sure hope that’s all it is,” I replied.
At the next big patch of sumac we came to along the road, I hopped out with my bucket to pick but Will eagerly got down on his hands and knees to examine the tire. Within a few minutes he shouted, “I found the problem! There’s rocks between the wheel.”
Again, I had to smile. He sure was being cute even though I was thinking how ironic it’d be if it actually did turn out to be the very problem he’d said it might have been. He wanted me to come take a look, but I was in a thicket so I told him he’d have to wait until I came out to dump my bucket.
By the time I did, I’d already forgotten about it until Will excitedly reminded me after I’d emptied my load. I got down and he pointed to a gap in the wheel. Sure enough! There were several irregular, small pieces of gravel in there that were rolling about as we’d drive and were getting crunched between the tire rim and the brake drum. Most of them were loose, but there were a few that were still wedged between the metal. I still had my kitchen scissors that I’d been using to cut sumac, so I stuck them in and hammered at the rocks. They came free easily but I couldn’t get them completely out of the gap. I couldn’t push them out the back so they had to be taken out from the front, but I couldn’t get them to slide forward.
As I mumbled about what I was wanting to achieve, Will intelligently suggested I use the blades of the scissors to grab the rocks and pull them out. I tell you, by the time the task was done, I was feeling rather dimwitted having a five-year-old guide me through the whole thing. But I sure was proud of him though. When we arrived back home, Doug was out chopping firewood and as soon as Will saw him while we drove past, he was shouting out the window with great enthusiasm how he’d fixed the rig.
So now I’m pretty certain that instructing children at an incredibly young age is beneficial and not at all a waste of time and effort. There’s no reason why fathers need to wait to teach their sons how to work on a vehicle until they’re teenagers. Or on anything for that matter. And that goes for us mothers as well. My mom started me so young in the kitchen that I don’t even remember learning it. I was making biscuits while having to stand on an old milk crate in order to roll the dough out. I think it’s so much easier that way and you can be so much more ahead of the game learning something before you can even recall the lessons.
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