My husband and I have decided to take on a major home remodeling project. Do we know anything about construction, plumbing, or electricity? Not really. Are we Millennials who learn everything from watching Fixer Upper and YouTube tutorial videos? Absolutely.
Luckily, we’re also smart enough to know when we need help. We have humbly requested the assistance of friends and family who have much more experience in renovation projects than we do. As payment for their gracious services, we’re offering them free food, stress-relief wall-smashing, and our backyard for their kids to run and play.
When we decided to take this on, we knew it would be a great opportunity for my husband and I to learn some new skills and gain valuable experience. What I didn’t anticipate was the great opportunity it would also be for our kids.
We spent weeks preparing our basement for this renovation. Our two boys, ages seven and five, helped us by packing up things that were down there. Our plan is to turn the basement into a full apartment that we will be renting out, but with a separate recreation room for our family’s use. The boys excitedly wrote down ideas of games and activities they are going to use this new rec room for. They’ve even designed a “Watts Game Room” sign. They watched as we walked through layout ideas and created final blueprints. They helped hold measuring tapes and rulers. They even counted down the days on the calendar until our scheduled demolition day.
Finally, it was here; “Demo Day!” (said in my most enthusiastic Chip Gaines voice) You’d think it was Christmas morning the way our kids came running downstairs yelling “DEMO DAY IS HERE!” Our friends arrived with all their handy tools, power saws, masks and gloves. I on the other hand, was not quite as prepared for how involved our boys wanted to be with the demolition. I had figured they would watch for a few minutes, put a hole or two in the wall with their little hammers, then get bored of all the destruction and retreat to play with their friends. To my surprise, they were totally into it! And even more surprisingly, they were helpful. They unscrewed outlet covers, tore off chair rail and paneling, knocked down shelves, and even got to help hold a power saw. When it came time to knock walls down, they had a blast drawing goofy pictures on them. Their faces were priceless when we told them to kick pieces of the wall down! They looked especially comical with their ‘safety sunglasses’ and gardening gloves on, since as I mentioned before, we weren’t very prepared to have our kids so involved in this project.
I tried not to hyperventilate too many times as they would accidentally hit their hand with the hammer or come heart-stopping close to stepping on a nail. Sure, there ended up being a couple bruises and scratches, but they seemed to quickly get over them and jump back in to work. It was a learning experience for me as a parent. I had to step back and allow them to get their hands dirty, hair full of drywall dust, and a little hurt sometimes. When they’d get frustrated, I tried not to jump in right away, but let them figure it out together, sometimes through trial and error. As it turned out, I wasn’t just learning about wall structure, ventilation systems, and load-bearing beams that day.
At the end of it all, when the dust was settled, our kids were wonderfully exhausted and bubbling over with stories and memories of the day they got to ‘blow up the basement’ with their family and friends. Now I wonder if they’ll be that enthusiastic about spackling and sweeping up drywall debris?
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, has two sons, and baby daughter.