A lesson in raising up a handy young man

Orlando Sentinel

My husband is very handy around the house. It's one of the many reasons I married him besides his Dermot-Mulroney good looks.

A woman can't lose if she marries a man who can fix things.

If a toilet breaks, he knows how to fix it. He can hang drywall, build shelves, bookcases and even install a yard fence. He can paint, dig out and create ornamental fish ponds and can fix most of the basic things that go wrong around a house.

When we were dating, more than 15 years ago, one of the things I first fell in love with was his yard. He had a small cottage-like house in east Orlando with a beautiful back deck he built with help from family and friends and an arbor that overflowed with wisteria. Trees grown from seeds from Hawaii, Louisiana and places all over the nation lined the yard, as did scores of plants. My favorite was the angel trumpet that smelled like heaven. He even had a weeping willow.

My husband knows how to fix and create things because he learned from his father how to use tools. He started as his dad's 'project assistant' at age 5 or so, he recalls. Before age 10, my husband used a hatchet under his father's supervision to gather limbs for firewood, and he also learned how to start and maintain a fire pit and help put it out.

For the record, I just learned to manage a fire pit from my husband and his family earlier this year. I also mowed my first strip of lawn a few months ago. I guess it's never too late.

My husband brought his father-son tradition to our family. Our son, who turns 11 in days, has been using tools with his dad as long as we can remember. Tools always have been part of his life as soon as he was old enough to hold one in his hands.

(Just a shout-out here to my father-in-law, "Big Don!" Thanks for raising up a "real man," not to mention the thousands of dollars you probably helped save us over the years.)

Like his dad, our son knows how to control a small backyard fire pit, use different wrenches, a hatchet, hammer nails, use a wheelbarrow, and do projects with his father -- including making a 'robot man' with wood and screws and bolts to hold on its arms, legs and other body parts.

Our son's early experience with tools has taught him how to assemble difficult things -- like huge Lego sets -- with ease. "I helped him early on, but he took off on his own," my husband said. "Probably by the time he was five, if not earlier, he was reading instructions and building Lego projects."

At this point in life, my husband thinks our son probably could put together a bike on his own if he had to.

I don't doubt it, and I am glad he has been there all along to teach our son responsibility, safety and respect for tools, and how to fix and build things. 

The benefit goes way beyond raising a boy to be handy around the house. My husband and son look forward to their time together, fixing and making things, while also building that critical father-son bond. Not to mention the self-esteem boost that comes from creating and accomplishing.

Thoughts? Tweet me @momsatwork and, moms and dad, let me know how you are training your girls! I want to hear your stories. 

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