A lesson in patience

A friend of mine was recently trying to talk me into volunteering some of my time to help handicapped children. I declined his request, not for any of the reasons that might first spring to mind, but because any time I want to help a child who struggles I just go and spend a bit of time with my 9 year old son. He is autistic. Not severely, but sufficiently to make life with him a challenge at times. He gets ideas into his head and it is virtually impossible to get them out. A couple of weeks ago he talked my wife into buying him a child's pizza oven thing at a second hand store - eight bucks, no big deal, right?
As soon as he had it home he announced that he needed to build a shelf for it to sit on - suddenly Dad is involved and this turns into a woodworking project. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) this fell when I was extremely busy and only had little bits of time to spend with him, so I was trying to delay until the weekend. He is a very determined child and decided that he could manage the project on his own. The first I knew about it was when he showed up with a handful of 3" deck screws and asked if he could borrow a screwdriver to put them in with. He has a toolkit but the phillips screwdriver is too small and he knew it wouldn't work. I asked him what he was going to build and he said he was building his shelf for the pizza oven. OK, so far, so good. The power tools are under lock and key, so I know he's not going to get into real trouble. I asked where he got the wood and he said from the scrap pile out back - excellent! He has even learned what he can use without asking, and that has take a long time. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and got his older brother (12 years old) and gave them my 14v cordless drill to drive the screws. I figured the worst they could do was some minor finger pinching or stabbing with the screwdriver bit - all educational type stuff - and the 12yo is pretty good and keeping things under control.
An hour or so later they showed up and told me I had to come and see their shelf, so I went with them to the garage (soon to be turned into a shop) to see what they had done. The 9yo had selected from the scrap pile two old bench supports from the deck we tore off last summer and had screwed 2x6s on top between them. It was actually quite solid and well aligned. Then it gets sticky. "I have to paint it now." He announced. Well.... I decided it was time to do some serious teaching stuff, so I had him sand it until it was reasonably smooth. Autism is weird because physical stimulus can become a real problem. He wanted to use the orbital sander, but a few minutes of that and the vibration was just driving him nuts, so we spread the sanding out over a couple of days. Then we had to get some paint.
Normally I would have plenty of paint floating around, but between not having a shop yet and a lot of recently little projects, there was nothing on hand, so we planned a trip to the Borg. Now this is a guy who absolutely *loves* stores, and the Borg is one of his favorites. I took him to the paint section and had him pick a color then we went and got a quart of primer and went to the counter and I had him ask the clerk to mix a quart of the color he had chosen. While that was being done we went over and I bought him a paintbrush of his own (OK, it was really just to keep him from using mine, but he was as thrilled about having his own paintbrush as he was about anything else in the project - kids love having real tools that are *theirs*). Back home and straight away we went and put on a coat of primer. I carefully explained to him about wiping off the loose sawdust and keeping things as clean as we could. His concentration was excellent for about an hour, although I had to finish up a bit of it. It was, however, his project. The next day I helped him put the finish color on the legs and underside of the shelf (it's actually more like a bench). He loves purple, so it was painted a nice lilac that he chose.
I was pretty busy for a couple of days and didn't get back to the project, so yesterday he went out on his own, opened up the paint can, stirred it carefully and painted the top. He neatly re-sealed the can and washed the brush out as well as I could have done. It really needs another coat of paint to get a complete coverage, but his patience has run out and he wanted to use it, *now*!
Upshot is that I now have a 4' long, purple shelf/bench in my dining room with a Chuck-e-Cheese toy pizza oven on it. You know what? Right now it's my favorite piece of furniture.
Tim Douglass
http://www.DouglassClan.com
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Tim Douglass writes:
snip of fine story

And so it should be.
Congratulations.
Charlie Self
"Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful." Samuel Johnson
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Tim Douglass wrote:

Not much I can say you haven't already heard, but I'm touched.
--
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
Linux fanatic, and certified Geek; registered Linux user #243621
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Bless the both of you! Dad and his son!
Criminy some of you guys are damned fine woodworkers and damned fine parents! How you SOB's get so good at both? ;-)
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wrote:

Thanks for the kind words, some days I can really use them! As a father I think I'll wait about 20 years to pass judgement. As a woodworker I'm little more than a carpenter who would love to get better. I love nice furniture and I *know* I can build it. it just doesn't always turn out that way.
Tim Douglass
http://www.DouglassClan.com
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