Sunday, May 09, 2010

3 Boys and a Garage Door

 (This is cross-posted at The Family Bed.)


I've given up. I pride myself on being a somewhat successful handyman, trying to fix most home problems myself. I tackle plumbing or electrical problems. I paint (though I loathe it), and I landscape. I've helped roof a friend's house. If Home Depot carries the supplies, I'm willing to try it. It's easy to explain my do-it-yourself nature. It's genetic. My dad fixed nearly everything around our house. He taught me much of what I know about home repair and nearly all I know about auto repair. In fact, I had to do much of our family's car maintenance and repair before I was allowed to drive the vehicles. That experience has saved me in more than one situation in which I had to McGyver-like fix a car to get me and my friends home. I've also used this knowledge to impress my wife by answering Car Talk calls correctly. Beyond these skills, and more importantly, my father gave me the gift of confidence to try repair projects.

The gray lining of this silver cloud of ability and experience is that I believe I should do these repairs myself. I have a strong puritanical push against hiring people for work I can do myself. Despite how much I hate mowing the lawn and challenging it is for me to make time to do it, I still won't hire a company to do it, and do it much better than I can. I've spent hours repairing plumbing problems that ultimately would have been cheaper to simply have called someone. I still have spare parts from trips to the hardware store I never returned. And I always feel inadequate when I do call a repairman, compelled to talk to the repairman as a means to demonstrate my prowess with repairs -- I'm not just some soft-handed academic who has never worked a day in his life.

But now that I have three small boys, it's nearly impossible to make a half-dozen trips to Home Depot and Lowe's for parts and advice. I can't simply drag power tools around the yard or house, cutting lumber or firing nails at will. Fixing a wall outlet or changing a water filter have gone from a 5-minute job to a 3-hour one. Sometimes it's more fun and sometimes it's maddening. Still, I've done most of the repairs I can around the house (except change the oil in our vehicles, which is actually cheaper at our dealership than what I can change it for, and I'd don't have used motor oil around my house for small children to get into).

It was a major blow to my repair ego when I broke down and decided to hire a repairman to replace our garage door. He's coming on Monday to give us a firm estimate, but barring some dramatic change, I know we'll hire him. With the help of a friend, I could do it. I know I could. As a friend says, "It would be easy." And it would. But many of my friends have small children and can't afford the time, and neither can I. So I will pay someone to do something I know I could do myself. I want to say it's a sign of adulthood, but I know my father would have done it himself at my age. Of course, for him, his son would have been a perfect helper, literally running with excitement to get him tools as he worked. My boys are too young, instead wanting to take tools and use them to "repair" things around the house or garage. Last summer they managed to completely disassemble their bikes.

I try to console myself by saying that lots of people hire other for these jobs. I'm helping a family business stay afloat. I have told my wife on more than once that if we can solve a problem by throwing money at it, it's worth doing. This is one of those cases. I tell myself that this phase will pass. I will be able to do more of these repairs once the boys are a little older. But I just can't get it to sit right with me. I want to do this job. It just isn't going to happen. My lawn is too long, I need to do other home repairs, and I want to spend quality time with my family.

So I'm going to pay someone to do something I could do myself. And I'm just going to have to deal with it. So it goes.

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