© 2009 Brooke Allen
Originally published October, 2009, in International Family Magazine
Republished in Folks Magazine on 10/24/09.
When I was 16, my dad told me to get in the car – we were going for a ride. We drove to Bolek’s Foreign Car Service. My dad told Bolek that his son needed to learn how to work and he would drop me there every Saturday morning. He told Bolek that I wasn’t worth anything so he shouldn’t pay me anything. He gave Bolek $100 as an advance against any damage I might do. Then he drove off.
Over the next year I learned to get my hands dirty, how to use tools, and how things worked.
– – –
When my dad had a problem, we went to visit Frank at Frank’s hardware store.
Frank was a problem solver and his store was a huge collection of tools and parts for solving problems.
“Looks like this is a job for a ¾ inch bit and a stove bolt.” “I’d use a rubber coupling and a hose clamp.” “An arc welder is better for that than acetylene.”
– – –
Decades later, I became a dad too.
– – –
I sat next to a four-year-old girl at a neighbor’s dinner table.
“I hate broccoli. How come I never get what I want? I hate you.” She began pounding the table and crying.
While her parents were in the kitchen making her French fries, I turned to her and asked, “Wow. How do you do that?”
Her crying stopped abruptly and she gave me a sly smile. “You want to yell and make a lot of noise. Don’t stop. It really helps if you can cry.”
“But, why do I want to do that?”
“Because that way you get what you want.”
A young boy was given a present by his divorced dad at Cub Scout camp.
“But mommy gave me two presents, and both of them were nicer than this.” He wrinkled his nose.
The dad frowned, “You don’t think this is the only thing I got you, do you?” That afternoon, the father left the camp to go shopping.
– – –
I sat on the abandoned lifeguard chair as I watched a young girl run across the sand.
She twisted her ankle and fell in a heap.
She began crying hysterically.
Suddenly she stopped, stood, and looked around. Her father was far away; out of earshot.
She collapsed again and bawled even louder.
She stood again. Her father had wandered off so she resumed joyfully running down the beach.
– – –
Today, I can tell you what everything in a hardware store is used for.
But I am terrible at getting other people to do what I want.
Teach your children to manipulate things, not people.
(And the best way to teach them not to manipulate people is to not let them manipulate you.)