You're absolutely right, Jon, that I, and likely most, thought the post was going to be another back-to-school reminder about the importance of having laptops and how the latest mobile device can inspire new educational opportunities--not just serve as a vehicle for texting and downloading the latest music.
I think this is a great reminder to teach our kids those go-to skills that so many let fall by the wayside in our disposable society. My kids are heading back to school today--not to college, yet--but this is good advice we have already started on and will certainly heed the toolbox suggestion once we pack them up to leave the nest in another few years.
Jon, I had an experience similar to yours when I was young. We did all the home improvements at my house when I was growing up, even the major ones. My father worked at a government lab and many of his friends were engineers. We even installed our own central air conditioning (we had forced air heat already), down to pouring the pad for the compressor. I especially liked the wiring. We even repaired my sister's and mother's jewlery with silver solder (that was my expertise). As for cars, my brother and I had small British sports cars, so we could take them completely apart and put them back together again (usually with a few extra bolts hanging around). We started on my father's car, doing all the normal maintenance.
I have tried to teach my kids by having them help on projects at home. We have a John Deere riding mower. That is the only vehicle where we do all our own maintenance. It is simple, but fun.
So, I agree that this is a good thing to do. Even if they don't do all their own stuff, they can evaluate what is being done for them.
One of the most interesting aspects of your very instructive story, Jon, is the way the tools became a mechanism for helping your kids meet people and become useful in the college environment. This is no small benefit when your kids enter a fresh environmental where everyone is a stranger. Apparently, when you have tools, everyone becomes your friend.
This was a great gift to give to your kids as they head off to college, Jon. My dad spent time with me teaching me to use all of his tools around his workbench. He also was very liberal in letting me use his tools for whatever I wanted. I built tons of things, from homemade jigsaw puzzles to speaker cabinats.
Very timely post Jon. It's funny--I follow your advice myself, but I never thought to pass it on to the kids. When I move my kids into their dorm rooms, I always pack the tools you suggest (maybe not the solder iron). And I almost always use them. It's getting trickier lately though, with the "no holes allowed in the walls" rule that the schools are adopting. Those two-sided tape things just don't cut it.
The writer is spot-on about the social side of owning a good set of tools. More than once, I was addressed as "toolbox" and was happy to share my stuff or lend a hand. In a co-ed dorm this was a real asset and friendmaker.
This is a fantastic idea - and one that I will use with my three daughters.
Can't tell you how many so-called "technical" people I've worked with who've had none of the practical experience that comes from working with simple tools or being employed to perform simple manual labor. Those are the "techical types" that frustrate many of us because they have no practical common sense.
In many cases, I believe kids would get as much long term value from pounding a few nails, cutting a board, painting, soldering, or turning a screw as they do from having their nose in a textbook.
I did this with both of daughters that have gone to college so far and they had similar experiences. There was an untold number of things they needed tools for and having ready access to them, as well as knowing how to use them, was invaluable. Besides the "handyman" skills I have taught each of the kids, before I let any of them drive they had to know and perform a standard set of car related items. This greatly assists with remote diagnosis of problems and helps me figure out, for example, if it just needs a quart of oil (which they could do) or if I have to go and rescue them. Most recently one daughter became very popular at college because she had a set of heavy duty jumper cables that are long enough to reach from the front to the back of a car with a dead battery. Those jumper cables were constantly in demand. It seems like cars left in the parking garage for days on end without being started would not want to start. Having a set of long, heavy gauge set of jumper cables is required for every one of my vehicles.
Hi, Outback. Great story. Kids should know about the vehicles they drive and how to check oil and transmission fluids, collant level, and so on. Heavy-duty jumper cables--great idea. Maybe your comments will suggest some holiday or birthday gifts for new drivers.
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