Every time Hawk sets foot in a hardware store, his eyes go wide and he whispers sweet nothings as he goes up and down the aisles. “Oooh. I like this one. And this one too. I want that one for my birthday.”
Sometimes he stands in front of something, like a ladder or a shop vac, and he says in a singsong way, “This one is my most favourite thing in all the world.” And he’ll just stand there, gazing at it for a long time. Until something else catches his eye.
“Look at this, Mama.” He’ll pick up a gas can, or a steel bucket, or a hammer. “See this? Mama? Know what it’s for?” And if he knows, he’ll explain its use to me. And if he doesn’t know, I explain to him.
Increasingly, he’s doing the explaining. The other day, he picked up a small orange screwdriver from near the till and carried it lovingly around the store, along with a stubby hammer in his other hand.
“Know what this is, Mama?” He showed me the screwdriver. “It’s for screwing in screws. All different kinds with these.” He showed me the changeable heads. “This one. Or this one. Or maybe this one.”
I found the carabiners we’d come to buy (the kids are very much into attaching things to other things right now) and we made our way to the till. Hawk still had the orange screwdriver and the stubby hammer tight in his fists.
“Those stay here,” I said as I paid for the carabiners.
“Not these ones,” he said.
“We only came for the carabiners today,” I said.
He looked up at me, clutching the coveted tools to his chest. “I buy these ones.”
“Do you have money?” I asked.
“Yup.” He leveled a very serious look at me. “I do.”
“With you?” I knew he didn’t, but I wondered what his game plan was going to be.
“Well, then we need to leave the tools here.” I pointed to the bucket of screwdrivers, and the box of hammers. “You can save up for them and buy them another day.”
“I’n a take these ones home today, please.”
Now, my kids are absolutely fine with leaving a store without buying any of the items that caught their interest. I knew that he would leave them without a fuss, but I also knew that he did have the money at home, in his piggy bank, only two blocks away.
“You can buy them with your money,” I suggested. “But we’ll need to go home and get it.”
“Okay. Let’s go.” And he headed for the door, tools in hand. Esmé stopped him.
“No, Hawk. We have to go get your money first,” she explained. “And then we can come back and buy them.”
So Hawk reluctantly handed the tools to Ryan, who rang them up and told Hawk that it came to $13.85.
“You keep these only a minute,” Hawk said. “I’n a go get my money.”
And he was off at a run.
When we got home, he grabbed his change purse and dumped it out onto the floor. Esmé helped him count out fourteen dollars in change. “You have enough!” she announced. Hawk dumped the money into his shopping bag and headed out the door.
“I’n a go get my TOOLS!” And he was off at a run again, this time back up the street.
Ryan grinned when he saw Hawk. “You’re back.” He placed the screwdriver and hammer on the counter. “You still want these?”
“Yup.” Hawk handed over the coins. “I bring-ed my money.”
“Tell you what, Hawk.” Ryan rang up the purchase. “I’m going to give you the young builder’s discount. When I was a kid, I wanted real tools too. And I saved up for them too. I bet you’re going to go on and build great things.” He handed the tools to Hawk. “Really great things.”
“Thanks.” Hawk tucked his new tools into his shopping bag. “I’m a worker.”
“You are,” Ryan said. “No doubt.”
And a worker needs a workbench. So when we got home, we brought the under-loved and under-used toy kitchen outside. With Grampa Dave’s help, and the help of our neighbour Cleo, Hawk turned it into a workbench. That was last week, and every day since then, Hawk eats his breakfast at the kitchen table, and then heads outside to work. Rain or shine, he’s your guy.
He ‘fixes’ his bike, Esmé’s bike, the scooter, the fence, the gates, the screen door. He tightens screws, bangs down nails. Measures things. Thinks. Plans.
He’s got work to do. And he’s doing it. Just as he’s been ‘working’ ever since he could pick up a tool.
What’s different about it now?
Well, Ryan took him seriously at the hardware store. He spoke with Hawk with respect and curiosity, which let Hawk’s knowledge and passion for tools shine, even though Hawk is just two and a half years old. Hawk was thrilled to have Ryan’s attention, to be able to talk tools with someone who knows so much about them.
And Grampa Dave took him seriously when they turned the play kitchen into a workbench together, and when he had Hawk come along to do some small repairs. He wasn’t ‘lecturing’ Hawk about the various tools in his impressive toolbox, or talking down to him about not using the drill or any other ‘dangerous’ tool. Instead, he included Hawk, in a very junior apprentice role. He let Hawk do what he could, and encouraged him as he went. He let Hawk explore the tools, and come up with ideas on how to fix the broken gate and the busted closet door.
Our neighbour Cleo brings Hawk wood, and chats about this tool and that, and is always happy to stop a moment and engage with Hawk. As a contractor by trade, she knows what she’s talking about, and Hawk can tell. His conversations with her have a purpose, a focus that he truly appreciates.
Jack and I might not know much about tools, fixing things, or being a ‘worker,’ but that doesn’t matter. Hawk is in good hands; strong, wise, weathered worker hands. These are relationships he’s building himself, even from such a young age.