When the kids are away, their parents fix things.
Recently our two kids were at their grandparents' house for a few days and my wife and I quickly started working on nagging household projects.
Moreover, as I puttered around, I noticed that with the kids gone, my working style changed.
I could work without interruption. That is something I haven't been able to do for the last 10 years, which by no coincidence, is the age of our oldest child.
One day I was even able to leave a project, fixing a stairway light, half-finished. I left the taped-up electrical wires sticking out of the wall without fearing that in my absence the 6-year-old would remove the tape and try to hang something, or his big brother, from the wires.
I was able to block one of the busiest intersections of our house, the stairs leading to the kitchen, without being hassled. No one came tearing down the steps, almost knocking me off the ladder. No one sprinted to the phone.
No one walked away with my tools. The beaming flashlight, which usually draws kids like moths to a flame, drew no followers this time.
And I could leave fragile things like light bulbs, globes and trouble lights out in full view without worry that they would be shattered.
Nonetheless, this "little job," like many of the species, turned out to be more difficult than I first thought.
The socket in the light fixture needed replacing. To make sure I got the right kind of replacement part, I took the whole fixture off the wall, put it in my briefcase, and carried it to work with me. Around lunchtime I toted the fixture over to an electrical supply house near my office, Peoples Electrical Supply on Gay Street, and presented it to the guy behind the counter.
He eyed the fixture, and in a few minutes came up with a similar but newer socket that cost about $2.50.
I wasn't sure how to get the old socket off the fixture, and neither was the clerk at the electrical supply store. But back at my office, I cornered a company electrician, who quickly showed me that the socket was held in place by a small screw in its base.
He unscrewed the old socket. But the screw holding the old socket in place wouldn't fit in the new socket. It was too big, by a fraction of an inch.
So the next morning I took the socket and too-fat screw over to my neighborhood hardware store. I wanted to get a skinnier screw. But the store didn't have any. Instead Maurice, the guy at the hardware store who can fix anything, pulled out a round, or rattail file, and started enlarging the hole the screw went it.
It took him several minutes. As he filed, he waited on other customers. But eventually the screw fit in the hole, the new socket fit in the old fixture, and I took it home.
After reconnecting all the wires, and tightening down the fixture, I went outside and threw the circuit breaker that returned power to the light. I hurried back to the spot of my labors, hoping to bask in an incandescent glow. Instead I was greeted by gloomy darkness.
I rechecked my connections. I checked the light bulb. Both were fine. Then I found the problem. The light switch was turned off.
I quickly corrected that problem and where once was darkness, now was 40 watts of illumination.
I felt so proud. I switched the light off and on, and beamed. But no one else cared. Not the parakeets, not the gold fish.
That is when I missed the kids. They do get in my way. And they do tend to make a "simple" repair project complicated.
But when you fix something, even something as ordinary as a stairway light, they are a very appreciative audience. Sometimes they even applaud.