Some dissembling required

By Mir
July 16, 2005

Monkey’s birthday is in January–which sucks badly enough, for him, because it’s so close to Christmas–and I have a horrible history of presenting him with birthday presents he can’t run out and use. It seems like a good idea, giving a kid a motorized child-sized Jeep or a bike or something for his birthday. But not in January. That poor child is now resigned to receiving something really cool, looking outside at the snow, looking back at his cool warm-weather gift, and sighing. Loudly.

I’m a slow learner. I recently ran across an amazing deal on this baby. Perfect for Monkey’s birthday! I ordered. It arrived this week. I realized that he might enjoy, say, playing with it NOW while he still could. So I threw mean-mama caution to the wind and said, “HEY! I bought you this for your birthday but let’s play with it now!”

The children keeled over and died from the shock of such indulgence from me. I think I may have been offended. But mostly I was too busy administering CPR to think about it too much.

We watched cartoons this morning (quality, non-argumentative time) while I verified that Chickadee was no longer sick (she had a tummy bug yesterday). After she’d consumed two cups of applesauce, a banana, and three pieces of toast, I declared the coast clear and dragged the kids on several errands. It was HOT this afternoon and the bickering began before we were finished at the first store. By the time we completed the last task and headed home, I figured I had two choices. I could just eat them both and be done with it, or I could come up with something spectacular to distract them from trying to annoy the living crap out of one another and me.

I really wasn’t very hungry, so I offered to put together the three-wheeler.

We took the box outside and unloaded all the parts. I read the instructions and went and got my tools. By this time, Chickadee had lost interest and was busy taking out her bike, scooter, and every ball she could find in the garage. Monkey sat patiently on the step and asked me if I was done now about six times before I finished the first step. I finally suggested that he check back with me in a little bit.

Probably I shouldn’t have even started it. I wasn’t in the mood for further frustration. The constant whining and tattling of the last few hours had worn me down to my last nerve. I usually enjoy little assembly projects and perhaps I thought it would help me calm down and focus.

Well. You know where this is going, right? The directions were in Chinglish. There was a single, tiny diagram on the second page of the instructions, and then no other illustrations. Most of the directions would say things like “attach steering rods to the steering levers and tighten” without giving any indication of which holes/hardware to use. Most of the bolts required hex wrenches–yes, not A hex wrench, but several different sizes of them–which were not included.

Oh, also? My tools are crappy girl tools.

Instead of standard screwdrivers, I have one of those ratcheting screwdrivers with a bit set. And APPARENTLY one of the FEATURES of this screwdriver is that when you foolishly apply PRESSURE and try to TURN something that doesn’t want to turn, the bit just sits there while the handle turns and goes CLICK CLICK CLICK. Not that I don’t, you know, appreciate the very charming clicking sound and all, but nowhere in my directions did it say, “Next, click three times at the chassis to attach stuff.” (Please do not tell me I had the screwdriver set to go the wrong direction. I didn’t. It’s just a cheap piece of garbage.)

Picture it, if you will: It’s late afternoon, the temperature is still hovering around 88 degrees, I am surrounded by what looks like a spectacular explosion of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Dunebuggy, and I am cycling through every tool in my arsenal. Screwdriver–CLICK CLICK CLICK. Different bit–CLICK CLICK CLICK. Pocket multi-tool thingie… phillips head–too small. Pocket multi-tool thingie… flat head–hey! That’s working! YES! Shit, now it’s bent. And I can’t close it. Crap. Pocket multi-tool thingie… this blade has a blunt flat-head type end… TURN TURN SLIP SLICE.

[Brief break to reattach my finger with dinosaur band-aids and indulge in copious swearing out of earshot of the children.]

This went on for… I dunno… six years? Maybe a little less. Meanwhile, Monkey kept coming back to check on my progress. And he would circle the area and size up the situation and then come pat me on the shoulder or finger my hair and say, something like, “It’s looking pretty good over here!” I would demur under my breath and he’d run off, oblivious. Then came the clincher on his umpteenth trip: “Wow, Mama… you sure are good at putting this stuff together! I think you are probably the best builder ever!”

I was hot and tired and my hands ached from manipulating a wrench in each hand (the only way I was able to secure most of the bolts, in the end), and I wanted to chuck my toolbox into the woods, sit down on the driveway, and cry. But that just didn’t seem fitting for the best builder ever.

Sometimes it makes good sense to let our children know that parents have bad days, yucky feelings, and limits. And sometimes you just have to suck it up and balance a chassis between your knees and twist two wrenches in counterbalance.

I kissed the top of Monkey’s head and told him I’d be done soon.

At long last, I set the finished vehicle down. Chickadee was drawing on the driveway with chalk and Monkey was bouncing a ball. Neither of them were looking at me. I slipped into the seat and put my hands on the levers… and then pedalled down the driveway, looping tight circles around my giggling children (these rear-wheel steering vehicles corner like you wouldn’t believe) and zooming houseward again while they chased me.

“Was that FUN, Mama?”

“Woohooooooooooo!” I called as I slowed to a stop. Actually, I was just checking to make sure nothing was going to fall off once it was in use. Mission accomplished. I picked up the strewn tools while they took turns racing up and down the driveway.

I sure am good at putting stuff together.


  1. justdawn

    I am WOMAN see me assemble.
    You ROCK!!!
    Just where did you find that? My son would LOVE IT!!!

  2. Meg

    You are the best mother ever, lady.

    I currently have to put Megazords together for my Power-Rangers-mad 5 year old, who’s very good at disassembling the bloody things but not so good at reassembling them. Bloody kills me.

  3. suze

    oh my god, you so totally rock. coming from a kid with a birthday not just close to christmas but actually on the very day, being given a birthday present in the middle of the summer would have been SO AWESOME. trust me. he’ll love you forver for it (not that he wouldn’t anyway, i’m just sayin’… ;) )

  4. alektra

    I think you rule even more for raising a kid like Monkey who knows to compliment instead of pester the whole time. What a sweetie!

    But congrats on making it, and being able to fit in the damn thing. Wow!

  5. pam

    You’re too cool!!! I felt the excitement when you rode around on your new toy and it didn’t fall apart!! As said before “You Rock!”

  6. Thumper

    I had a cousin with a birthday way too close to Christmas, too…so she celebrated her half birthdays. Not sure why my 2 sisters born in January didn’t–but it worked great for the cousin!

  7. Fran

    Good for you! I too was the fix it Mom although my son didn’t know what an iron was when it came to the worksheet and filling in the letter the item started with. Be that as it may, they survived. Now treat yourself to some good tools and a set of Allen wrenches, Staple gun, drill/drill bits.

  8. Dawn

    I bow in amazement. You have the patience of a saint. And I agree with alektra. Any little Monkey who can offer encouragement instead of whining at his age, is a gem. And you know where he’s learned this behaviour, don’t you. His patient mom.

    You ROCK!!! (but you need real tools)

  9. ad

    I completely concur with with that old philosopher Monkey, You are the best builder ever! Just look at him.

    You can also asssemble things but remember it’s a poor player who blames his tools. I’ll bring you some real wrenches so you can keep up the good work.

  10. Cat

    WTG! What an AWESOME mom your kids have! I have had to spend a few hours doing just that very thing before. Not an easy task. But you did it! WOOHOO.
    you must invest in some manly man tools now. ;)

  11. Karry

    Isn’t it great to assemble somethign like that and then have it work? LOL! it’s the best thing. Oh – and get the term right! It isn’t Chinglish – it’s Engrish, although – with more words and fewer diagrams Chinglish just might be a dialectic variation of Engrish… Check out for some good shots of unbelievable real signs. Warning – some signs are likely to be inappropriate for Monkeys and Chickadees that know how to read. I’m sure the explanation of Tittyboo Towers would not be an easy one. Enjoy!

  12. Fraulein N

    Aw, I love how he kept coming back to cheer you on the whole time.

  13. Mysh

    I totally agree that you ROCK as the best builder ever and that you DO need some real tools befitting you as such. But what I’m most amazed about is that you actually FIT inside the racer once you were done with it because the photo looks like it wasn’t made for anyone over say…4 feet tall! WOW Mir, you’re just one surprise after another! :O)

  14. Zuska

    I’m very impressed by your building skills, and I’m melting at the image of Monkey giving you such sweet encouragement – awwwwww!

  15. 4Sanity

    Oh well done! I bet Monkey is now very happy!

  16. bob

    WOOHOO – props to the assembly artist.

    I usually did my assembly chores at 2:00 AM Christmas morning hoping the kids would stay asleep. I am amazed they slept through the cussing over skint knuckles and the fits I threw over the chinglish/engrish instructions.

    (of course, you realize that he won’t remember this in January and will want to know where his birthday gift is……..)

  17. Shellie

    Please on please oh please share where you got this my son would worship me if I purchased this for him and since he’s such a sweetheart he certainly deserves it.

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