If it's broke, don't fix it

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

All of a sudden, I have time.

I guess this is what happens when your kids become adults. Mine are now 25 and 18, and I'm finally getting around to things I meant to do a decade ago. Not big things, such as learn to play the violin or walk across America. Little things, such as maintain the house.

When we moved to our house in 1993, every room needed new paint. Here we are, three U.S. presidents later, and about half of the rooms still need new paint. But I can see the day coming when I will paint them.

My daughter is a senior in high school. She hasn't needed my help with her math homework since her curriculum exceeded my abilities. (In truth, that happened in about fifth grade.) She hasn't needed me to drive her anywhere in a year and a half. Hence, I have cleaned the basement, which I meant to do in 2004.

Parents have always been short on time, but I think modern houses are a unique source of aggravation. Back in the days when people lived in caves, they had plenty of competing needs - survival vs. charcoal drawing on the walls, for example - but at least their home maintenance schedule was simple.

If the kids wanted to attend junior mastodon hunting classes, parents could say yes without fearing it would take time away from installing a new faucet in the half bath.

Modern houses and their accessories are, alas, a bit more complicated. I could blow an entire weekend cleaning grout. The fact that I have not (the condition of the grout proves it) can be at least partially attributed to the fact that I did stuff with the kids instead. Attribute the rest to a talent for procrastination.

By the way, if you're a parent, procrastination is your friend. If I could give new parents one piece of advice about homeownership and parenthood, it would be this: Defer maintenance on your house while the kids are growing up. They grow up so fast, the house is unlikely to collapse while they're doing so.

There will come a day when they will no longer need you for anything but money, at which time you can then turn to that pesky roof leak of eight years standing. In the meantime, don't miss a soccer game, a band concert or Boy Scout campout because you want to seal the driveway.

Of course, you have to take a reasonable approach to things. So sure, if a pipe bursts and sends water cascading into your living room, you probably should investigate, even if you're in the middle of a rousing game of backyard Wiffle Ball. Do it between innings, at least.

What about making home maintenance a family event? Aside from routine chores such as doing the dishes, it never worked for me. At a certain age, kids would do anything to be at your side, Fisher-Price plastic screwdriver in hand, ready to remodel the kitchen. That age is 4, maybe 5. By 6, they have their own ideas of fun. Some of them might even be fun for you. But you'll have to put away the lawn mower to find out.

Joe Blundo's column, So to Speak, appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. It's a mix of humor, human interest and information. A collection of his columns has been published in the book Dancing Dads, Defective Peeps and Buckeye Misadventures. He lives in Worthington with his wife and two children.