Renovations With Children: Building My Kitchen Cubby

With home ownership comes an endless list of tasks—things that  need  attention, things that could be improved, and things that would be nice.  Chances are that, if you haven’t got a list already, your spouse will be happy to make you one.   This wasn’t a huge deal before we had kids; sure, the cats got in the way, but it’s legal to lock them in the basement.


The trouble with having young kids is that they are accompanied by a severe reduction in “spare time” that can be spent on these projects.  Before the kids came, I’d only be spending a portion of my wonderful downtime on household projects; with my boys around, a project might eat the entire minute slice of time I might otherwise have to myself.

A strong gut instinct has developed for me, as a way to preserve my precious downtime—it makes me want to get everyone and everything as far out of my way as possible so that I can finish things in the shortest amount of time.  Naturally, kids, by their very existence, stand in opposition to this instinct, adding time to every step.  Every task is questioned, (almost) every tool is played with, and every action has to be taken with full awareness of where every little hand, foot, and head is located.


I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Over the last month, I’ve gradually installed a cubby (wall niche) in my kitchen.  It’s a project I’ve been considering for a while, but put off until my 11 month old yanking on the phone’s adapter cord made it a priority.  It suddenly seemed to me that some renovation work might be preferable to a glass shelf and a telephone crashing down on my son—go figure.

My eldest son, now three, has always been interested in watching me work around the house–I fondly remember him, not yet two years old, grabbing a tiny little tinker’s hammer to help me tack the back on a new bookshelf—but this is the first project where he’s really been old enough to really follow what I’m trying to do, and watch as I work, rather than just hitting things with a little hammer.

CuttingHe stood and watched, his safety goggles held carefully over his eyes, as I cut the hole in the drywall, and did his best to assist me with his little plastic drill as I installed the cubby.  Granted, when the power tools came out, he ran for the living room, but he did watch “Handy Manny” while he was there, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

As frustrating as having my son underfoot was at times–particularly with power tools around–the whole process made me look forward to projects in the future, teaching my sons how to do everything from building a basic garden box to wiring a new electrical outlet.  General terror of teaching them to use things like the table saw aside, I’m excited to watch them grow into the men they will become and have them working alongside me while it happens.

I also couldn’t help but reflect back on my own childhood a bit.  As rocky as my relationship with my father became when I really began to find myself and become an adult, there was a time when we would work side by side on projects in the garage, or in his rental houses.  Many of the skills I now have for woodworking, drywall, and assorted renovations began with those hours spent watching him work, and wanting to know how to do everything the way he seemed to.  Standing side-by-side with my son, watching him use his little plastic tools, reminded me that, while there are a lot of mistakes my father may have made that I will strive not to repeat, there were also some lessons that I will need to take to heart, and pass on to the next generation.


For a complete buildlog, with lots more pictures, come on over to The Finer Things.



2 Comment

  1. We are just about to embark on major building smwork so can relate to this. The kids will be having a few weekends at the grandparents 🙂

    1. thenerd says: Reply

      We’ve had to do similar things with large projects. When I built the deck last year, we actually had the inlaws staying with the first major chunk of the build. I do most of the work, big and small, on my own (with help from my wife, when she can) so sometimes it is necessary to just keep them occupied and out of the way when the job is big enough.

      I’m looking forward to the days where they’re big enough to actually supply a second set of hands.

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