Saturday, October 14, 2006

Richard Takes Things Apart

One night, when Richard was five, after he and Julie were in bed, I took a bath and when I went to open the door, the knob fell off in my hand. There I was, locked in the bathroom. I called and called, and the kids just slept on. Luckily it was a summer night and my neighbors were in their bedroom with the window open. I was able to get them to call my landlord and have him come and let me out. So embarrassing.

I was renting from an older couple who had raised a number of sons, and so after he released me from the bath, we went around and tested all of the door knobs and cupboard handles in the place. Sure enough -- Richard had discovered the screwdriver. I tightened down all the loose screws, and the next day used my Montessori training to deal with this. The solution was to have 100 screws driven into a wooden square and give that to Richard so he could screw around all he wanted to. I began gathering stumps for him to hammer nails into and pieces of wood for him to plane and sand.

As he grew older, he began to branch out from carpentry to appliance repair. For his sixth birthday, one of his presents was six used wind up clocks from the Salvation Army store for him to take a part. He got them one by one. The first he got apart and partially back together -- by number six, he was taking it apart and putting it back together easily. Of course, when we would visit other people, they would hide all their small appliances, since he was reknowned for dismantling them.

He used to take his tricycle apart. Forrest would come to town to visit me, put the trike back together, Richard would ride it, and before Forrest was back on the freeway, it would be in pieces again. We would put them in a box and wait for the weeks or months until Forrest returned. Richard never complained about not having a trike. Forrest never complained about Richard having taken it apart.* Forrest would come, Richard would watch him put it back together, and it would all repeat. Until the day came when Richard could put it back together himself.

He dismantled his bicycles. (Scared me that he would be riding a bike without brakes.) Eventually, he built himself a bike from spare parts that he found around.

Does it surprise you that he takes computers apart for a living?

* When my mother married my step-father, I was nine and Forrest was four. In the mornings, Mama would get us breakfast, get Daddy off to work and me off to school, clean up the kitchen, and then make the beds. She would notice that there was sawdust at the foot of Forrest's bed, but then she would clean the rest of the house, feed Forrest lunch, garden, fix dinner and by the time Daddy got home, she forgot to tell him we had termites. Until one day it happened on a Saturday. Turned out that since four-year-old boys don't have a lot of clothes that hang up, Daddy was keeping his tool box in Forrest's closet, and Forrest had been taking the plane to the footboard of his bed. Daddy's solution was to get Forrest some boards to plane and to store his tool box on a higher shelf.


Joy Des Jardins said...

Well, it certainly doesn't surprise me that Richard takes apart computers for a living. He seems to come by this honestly from Uncle Forrest. Personally, I think it's wonderful to be able to do that. I don't have the patience to take things apart and put them back together again. My husband was the same kind of kid as Richard...and it followed him into adulthood. He just had to see how things ticked. Only problem is...once in a while after he would dismantle never ticked again.

Gina said...

Just yesterday Mr. P and I had the Phillips and were taking apart one of his toys to see how it worked.

Betty said...

My son took the lawn mower apart one day. My husband made up some new language trying to put it back together.

Ginnie said...

A cute post. In our family it was more my husband who did that. We could never find anything in his shop but he knew where every little screw or fastener was!

Cuppa said...

A kid's gotta do what a kid's gotta do.

Bug was the one to take things apart to see how they ticked in our house. We had a few things that lost their tick forever but nobody got ticked off about it.