Tag Archives: boys

Notes On Fatherhood

My Seven-Year-Old Son And Me, Building Our First Birdhouse Together

A Project I’d been Dreaming Of Since I Found Out I Was Having A Boy

(Basement workroom, work bench, basic tools)

“Okay, my boy. Here we go. I know you’ve been waiting a long time to do this, and you’re finally a big enough boy to use a hammer. But be very careful, and don’t do anything unless I say so first, Okay?”

(I point to his drawing of a birdhouse, our ‘blueprint,’ all crayon, ridiculous, not a single right angle, and hovering unattached in the sky. The scene is complete with a bird family, a cloud, and a sun so huge it would roast the Earth at that distance. His scale would make the birdhouse about the size of a small school.)

“Let’s start with the walls. We can see if we have some wood that would be the right dimensions for us to use.”

(I had spent a few hours over the previous days cutting wood to the proper sizes, so that we would have minimal cutting before assembly. We would make a few short, easy cuts, mostly for show, and then we would hammer the living crap out of the wood, and hopefully have enough uncrushed material left over to actually house a bird.)

“Okay, look over the wood pile and… where are you? Where did you go?”

(He is nowhere in sight and does not answer.)

“Marco?” (His actual name, not the ‘where are you’ game.)


(He has found a box of toys he has outgrown, but now finds himself re-enamored and unable to part with them.)

“We can talk about maybe not giving these away later. We have to do our building today, so let’s please get back to work. We have to work and focus if we want to do the job right. So come on back. Come on. Let’s go, buddy.”

(Back at the woodpile, with the precut pieces all stacked neatly on top.)

“Do you see any that are about one foot square? No? Are you sure? Look again. Right on top there. Use your ruler. That one on top looks to be about right. Just hand me those top few pieces. I’m pretty sure they’ll work. Just hand them to me please. Just… I’ll help you.”

“Well, I do think they’ll work just fine. Can you measure them? Just hold the ruler. Just hold… just… the ruler. Where’s the ruler?”

(Two minutes of looking for the ruler, no luck.  Then a snack, a pee (him), and some action figures, and we’re back at it in about a half-hour.)

“Okay. Let’s get these boards together and get this done. Hold this piece. Just hold it still. Just… no, it’s not an airplane. Yes, if you hold it sideways and wag it around it can be kind of like an airplane, but right now we need it to be a birdhouse wall. Just hand it to me.”

“Those are dowels. Yes, they look very much like swords. We’re not sword fighting right now. We can sword fight with your foam swords when we’re done here. Don’t… just for a minute. I’ll get started.”

“No, I’m not going to sword fight with you yet, so please stop poking me. I’m using tools. They’re pretty cool tools if you want to… ”

“Yes, just go ahead and sword fight in the other room.”

(20 minutes later. He’s started a DVD upstairs.)

“Do want to help? Marco? Come on back down, buddy.”

“Yes, that’s good singing. I like that song. You sure sing it a whole lot.”

(20 more minutes later, one finished birdhouse, very basic, box design, no entrance hole.)

“Where are you, Buddy?! Come look at our birdhouse!”

(He comes down the stairs)

“Good job, buddy. Go show Mommy what you did.”

“No, we’re not going to paint it today. I think you’ll be painting it with your mother.”

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