M. Giant's
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Thursday, January 24, 2008  

Can I Help?

One of my favorite qualities about M. Small is his helpfulness. He's always asking, "Can I help?" This is generally more true when one of his parents is starting some novel and unfamiliar task, rather than something he sees every day like loading the dishwasher. But if you break out the power tools, he's all over it.

It's kind of nice, because for years we put off all manner of projects around the house. He was too distracting and demanding as a baby and a toddler for us to take on anything too ambitious when he was awake, and when he was asleep we didn't want to make any noise with the power tools. Yes, we did have the second story on our house added to in 2006, but other people did that while he was out of the house.

But it's easier, now that I can give him something to do while I get something done that I've been putting off for a while. Like, last fall we got a new wall cabinet for our upstairs bathroom. It didn't come with wall anchors or even pre-drilled holes, so I had to put those in myself. Lining everything up was a tricky business, but fortunately M. Small helped by climbing on my shoulders while I handled the tape measure (which he kept trying to steal) and the level (which he kept trying to steal) and the drill (which he kept trying to plug back in because I unplugged it between every hole). With his assistance, I was able to actually get one of the screws into the right place. Later on he helped me by going to sleep, so I could realign the other seven.

The only challenge is to come up with a way for him to actually help that isn't a) patronizing, b) boring, or c) hard, d) frustrating, or e) dangerous. I can't just tell him, "hold this sponge," and the time I asked him, "rewire that light switch," he just looked up at me blankly. And you have to keep changing it up, or he'll get bored and come up with his own tasks. Like a couple of weeks ago when I was installing that wall bracket for the TV in the study. I got too occupied with time-wasting distractions like deciphering the non-verbal assembly instructions, and when I looked up he was helping me by dropping all of my drill bits into the floor vent.

But it's worth it, because as he grows up I want him to know that I value his help, and appreciate his desire to be with me, and encourage him to contribute to what people around him are working on. Just like my dad did with me (for all the good it did him).

So the other day, when I borrowed one of his colored pencils and flopped on our bed with a big stack of paper, you know he wanted to help. He loves coloring! When he heard I was working on a book? Good! He loves books! When he heard it was my book? Even better! He loves me! When I explained that I was marking up my copyedited manuscript to send back to my editor this week, he didn't understand a word of it, but he loved it anyway! And so on page 38 or so, there's a long, russet streak next to a dark-green "STET" in my handwriting, an artifact of how much he was able to help before Trash reeled him into her lap and distracted him with our Flickr account. Pointing out that my manuscript doesn't have any pictures like his books do helped as well.

All of which is just my cheap little daddy-blogger way of saying the copyediting on the book is finished, and my marked-up copy is in the mail back to my editor. Not just because she wanted it back ASAP, but because I wanted it safely out of the house before something happened to it.

posted by M. Giant 5:48 PM 5 comments


I love "stet." It makes me picture you rolling your eyes, sighing, and writing it, just barely holding back from underlining as well.

For those who are not English majors, copy-editors, giant nerds, or some combination: "STET" is from a Latin phrase meaning "yes, dammit, I meant it to be like that, you insolent whelp! Now begone, or I'll feed your liver to the hounds!"

It's like taking the copy-editor's red-pencil hand and slapping it away.

I hope you STETted that sumbich up but good.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at January 24, 2008 at 10:00 PM  

Two blogs I read talked about the value of "stet" in the same day. Are you secretly a Canadian knitter?

By Blogger Emily, at January 24, 2008 at 11:22 PM  

The literal translation is "may it stand," if anyone cares. Which, probably, no one does.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 25, 2008 at 11:36 AM  

You know, most young children might not know that you're speaking in a patronizing manner. I know I don't. And thanks, I'm glad you like my shirt.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 25, 2008 at 1:28 PM  

Speaking of your book, how did the Amazon pre-order go? I had to buy an hour early, but I hope it still helped. Can't wait to read it!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 25, 2008 at 6:51 PM  

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