This is kindergarten stuff.
My wife, Hailey, was on her way out the door to attend a meeting the other night, leaving me home to help my daughter, Ellie, with a kindergarten homework project.
“‘Project,’ like with crafty stuff?” I asked.
“Just use the hot glue gun,” Hailey said over her shoulder.
“How do you use the hot glue gun?” I asked, but the door had already slammed shut.
This is not going to be good, I thought.
We sat down at the dining room table together. Ellie, in her brown curls and bright blue eyes, explained that the assignment was to make a “shelter” — four walls and a roof — out of “craft sticks.” When I was a kid, we called them Popsicle sticks, but that was many years ago, before we knew sugar or obesity were bad.
The key, as with any school project, was to let the kid fail.
The key, as with any school project, was to let the kid fail. The finished product had to have just the right degree of sloppiness; otherwise, it would look like the control-freak parent made it.
As Ellie tore strips of red streamers for the shelter’s carpet, I lined up craft sticks side by side like a fence and got some crosspieces set aside, all ready to glue together. Then we plugged in the hot glue gun.
After a few minutes, I squeezed the trigger, but nothing came out. “How long do you have to wait until it’s hot?” I asked Ellie.
We lined up more sticks, and then Kennedy started crying. Kennedy is my 1-year-old daughter who, until this point, had been blissfully ignored, eating Cheerios in her high chair.
I tried to distract Kennedy with a few half-hearted peek-a-boos, but ultimately she ended up on my lap.
Then the glue gun got hot.
As I held up the first craft stick, Kennedy started reaching for my trigger finger. “Simmer down,” I told her.
Ellie watched in horror as, bouncing Kennedy on my knee, I attempted to gun a straight line of glue onto the narrow stick. The resulting goo looked like the trail of a dizzy slug.
But not to worry, dear Ellie. Dad has it under control.
Soon, I was cranking through the project. Give me another Popsicle stick — craft stick — whatever! We’re on a roll! We’re going to start selling these shelters at Michaels!
Then, several crosspieces later, Kennedy took another swipe at me and knocked a half-glued stick from my hand. I reached over to grab it and accidentally sunk my thumb into the hot glue itself.
I shook my hand frantically, but the stick was firmly affixed to my flesh. With no one to call 911 for me, I finally had to set down the gun, caging Kennedy on my lap between my elbows, and I pulled the stick from my tender skin.
While I was nursing my wound, Ellie grabbed the glue-covered stick and carefully pressed it down onto the row of craft sticks to complete the second wall.
“Well done,” I said.
I examined our handiwork and was satisfied. This shelter was well on its way to being convincingly crooked. No one would ever believe she had a parent helping her.