Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dribbles and Dads

It can be a tough job being a Dad sometimes. It is quite a privilege to have two boys who look up to me and I would like to say that I always earn that respect, having led and instructed my children wisely. The trouble is, I am human and can really mess things up. Sometimes I don't deserve the respect I receive.

We have been restoring a 100-year-old house as sort of a family project. Having been vacant and neglected for three years, the place is badly in need of quite a few fixes. So we have been patching plaster, fixing doors and floors, and (of course) painting. Having gone through and painted several rooms, we arrived in the kitchen a couple weeks ago. This was the perfect place for practice painting. This kitchen was missing all the cabinets and the floor, so paint dribbles would not be a problem.

Painting is one of those tasks that none of us really enjoys doing, but it does dress the place up, so we will swallow our pride and pick up the paintbrush. David is no exception to this. Being the youngest, he has been assigned the job of taping and painting trim quite a bit, and was pretty sick of it by the time we started on the kitchen. He was pretty excited when I told him he was going to run the paint sprayer. Somehow the job is much more fun if it can be done with power tools.

Both boys had used the paint sprayer in other rooms, and this would be a great time for additional practice. David, however, had the least experience with the sprayer so I gave him some instructions on how to prime the sprayer and hold the gun and then turned him loose on a large blank wall.

He soon had the bottom half of the wall covered and started on the top half from a ladder. I noticed a few runs in the paint so I cautioned him on the correct distance from the wall. "Keep it about ten inches from the wall and don't pull the trigger until the gun is moving," I told him. I watched him do a few more swipes and then set about fixing up the paint runs with a paint brush.

After getting the runs fixed up, I started noticing more runs and went to fix these up. "Try moving the gun a little faster," I instructed. "I think we're still getting too much paint on the wall.

David continued the upper part of the wall and I continued to fix up running paint. I began to notice many more runs in the paint and scrambled to keep up with them. "Less paint on the wall, make sure you're holding the gun straight" I told him a couple more times, growing a little more impatient.

Now I was noticing that large sections of the wall were forming lots of little rivulets slowly oozing their way towards the floor. I was getting hopelessly behind.

"Hand the gun to Josh," I commanded. "Grab another brush and help me fix up these dribbles!" I was having visions of the entire wall drying to the look and texture of a frozen waterfall.

David quietly handed the gun over and Josh started on the next wall. After working a while on the rivers of paint, I noticed three things. David had disappeared, Joshua's wall was starting to flow in spots, and the areas I had fixed up were also starting their dribbling descent anew. I began to suspect that the paint was part of the problem. We had switched types of paint for the kitchen and it appeared to be going on differently than the paint we had used in other rooms.

I chased paint rivers for the rest of evening. Trying to fix paint runs as the paint is drying can make quite a mess, and this kitchen was turning out to be a big disaster. We managed to take care of most of the streams, but when we left, the texture was still looking rather tough.

We talked about it on the way home. I told David about the different type of paint and how it acted differently when sprayed on the wall. I also apologized for my rather rough demotion of my budding painter. I could tell almost immediately after I demoted him that he was hurt by it. I told him that we will just deal with the kitchen somehow and that he shouldn't worry about it.

The next day, we came back to find very little evidence that there ever was a problem. The rough lines from the paintbrushes had dried smooth and the walls looked good. I felt sheepish and relieved at the same time, sheepish because I had blamed my son for something caused by a difference in paint and relieved that I wouldn't have to do it all over again.

When we started trimming the floor, I instructed the boys on how to measure and cut the shoe moulding. This time, I was not so impatient when things went wrong. There were several pieces that the boys cut incorrectly in some very interesting ways. Instead of getting impatient about it, I bantered with them about creating scrap.

Sometimes I wonder who learns more when we instruct our kids. The kids may learn about handling paint sprayers and shoe moulding, but Dad is continually learning how to handle kids.