My grandmother Mur used to say, “There is more than one way to skin a cat,” and she was right.
This past weekend I came up with a new way to do my work that will save me time. I was so pleased with myself that I thought about my father and wished he could see what I have managed to accomplish in my life. You see, when I was young, my father often repeated his mantras:
“There is only one way to do a job and that is the right way.”
“Do a job once and do it right the first time.”
“Use the right tool to fit the job.”
“For every job there’s a tool.”
As I thought about him, I acknowledged his work ethics and success in business. He was a hard worker and he stood behind the completed work; if something broke down he would come and fix it within hours and not charge a dime. As a father, though, he was rigid and unforgiving, even when he was wrong.
My father’s words seemed wise at the time but what it was doing was limiting any creativity and modification. If you did not do things his way you were lazy – it was that simple. I was riding along our electric fence cutting weeds and making repairs once and used a rock to drive a nail in a fence post. The scolding that earned me really deflated my feeling of accomplishment; I thought he would be happy for my ingenuity – instead, I felt really dumb.
When I had my own children I tried to always remember what I learned from my father and to allow leniency in the way my daughters accomplished an assignment or chore. My concern was the final product, not the process, unless it was something like laundry. In laundry, if you throw anything red in the washer you are going to have pink everything including business shirts when they were formerly white, gray or light blue. (Yes they really did! Thank goodness Rit makes a great color remover. After this incident I typed up step-by-step directions for our laundry.)
This weekend was an affirmation for me that I did have skills for organizing and efficiency. I am also pretty good at repairing and inventing things. When I worked for Kmart many years ago, the corporate office paid me for two separate suggestions I sent in that were adopted into stores across the country. Some years after that I sent tips into Wood, a carpentry magazine, that I was paid for and published. When Gmail was in its infancy I joined Gmail Labs; I sent in two suggestions that were adopted by them. The Gmail team of engineers snail-mailed me a “Black Belt Cheat Sheet” to show their appreciation.
Around home I have built and repaired things that have stood the test of time. The deck I replaced needs a new coat of paint now but is as solid as the first day I built it. The water filter was hard to open so I created a wooden key that would not scratch the refrigerator and it worked. I could go on and on but the best validation of my skills is what comes from my husband who says I would have been a great technician and Mr. Ramirez never flatters.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about giving kids clear instructions and that was to get them started. Parents should know their children’s abilities enough so that once they have completed a task a few times, and kids understand the end result, that they can give kids ownership of the chore and allow kids to modify the process that may save time, money or made the job safer. Let children experiment and explore; that is how they learn to do things. Also, by giving kids ownership of the work they do, parents show they have confidence and trust in them.
One of my jobs as a child was to use an old-fashioned can opener to open cans; you had to jab a hole in the top of the can and cut the lid off incrementally with stab-cut wrist motions which left the lid and opening sharp, jagged and dangerous. After I left home one of the first things I bought for myself was a Swing-A-Way can opener. I was so happy with it that on my first trip home I took one to my mother – who promptly told me it was a waste of money and was for lazy people. I know now, though, that it was not about the can opener. On my next visit home months later my mother showed me her Swing-A-Way can opener and how easily it opened cans. She evidently forgot that it was me who gave it to her.
*sigh* I still have that original stab-cut can opener; don’t ask me why.