Monday, April 16, 2007

"Home" maintenance

When we moved into our home five years ago, we were full of great ideas for updating a fixer-upper, 1973-edition two-story ranch house. New windows, adding a skylight, and adding a patio door were just the beginning. A pool would be so nice for our Texas summers, and wouldn’t it be nice to finish out the attic for a huge game room?

We started off well. I painted some rooms and we put in new carpet. We retiled showers and hung some new light fixtures. We redid the front landscaping.

But then reality hit: it’s an old house.

So instead of putting in a new skylight, we had to replace the roof. Instead of putting in new windows, we had to replace a shower pan. Instead of replacing the blue ceramic tile (ugh!) in our kitchen, we had to repair sheetrock from a leaky upstairs bathtub. And another shower pan. Instead of putting in a pool, we had to replace the air conditioning system. Last week we had squirrel holes in our siding repaired. Every time it rained, it leaked into the house.

Yes, we are definitely past the honeymoon phase with our house. Even the woodwork we painted when we first moved in is chipping. We are now in the maintenance phase. Sheesh.

Experts estimate that average homeowners should plan to spend from 1 to 3 percent of their home’s value – every year – on maintenance, no matter the age of the house. I’d say we’ve spent at least that, if not more. It’s depressing, especially when your budget for remodeling is...well, what budget for remodeling?!

Of course (you knew this was coming!), stuff like this always makes me think about my kids.

I wonder if there’s a rule of thumb for “maintenance” on kids?

I mean, I would love to spend time all my time working on "improvements" with them - doing activities that give them skills - good things - that are easy to measure and look good on the outside. Things like academics, sports, and clubs can fall into this category, depending on the emphasis they take, and the amount of time they consume. I've noticed that activities (and not just outside-the-home ones) that teach my kids to be "better at" something can very readily find their way to the top of my time budget.

But there are times I need to say "no" to some of those things, because there is too much work to do on the inside first. Squirrels have chewed holes, and rain is getting in. What good is it if a child is an excellent ball player, but has no empathy? Knows how to read at age four but can't share? No, it's much less glamorous and practically impossible to measure, but it's infinitely more important for me to spend time on character maintenance.

Of course, we taught our kids to obey from the time they reached for the stove handle, and yet every day, there’s still a little bit of teaching we have to do to. We taught them to speak kind words to each other, but each day we have opportunity to revisit the issue. We are constantly working on character issues that are broken, or fixing heart attitudes that are leaning in the wrong direction.

It could easily get depressing. I’ve spent many hours bemoaning this two-steps-forward-one-step-back task. It is very labor-intensive and time consuming. Can't we just move on, already?

But it helps me when I realize it’s just part of life. In order to keep something in good repair, it takes time and effort. It’s something I need to plan for and not get stressed out over.

Let’s see, if I spend from 1 to 3 percent of my children’s waking hours on character maintenance, that would equal 9 to 27 minutes per day per child. Am I doing this? It seems like correcting problems is all I do some days, but even then, I seriously doubt it.

If this crazy 1-to-3-percent idea is even remotely true, I need to be making the most of my interactions with my kids. If I spend just 10 minutes per day building – keeping strong character in good repair – just think of the benefits! In time, and if I use quality materials, more and more of my maintenance budget can slowly be transferred to the home improvement budget. Now that’s exciting!

As I'm touching up paint on my woodwork today, I’ll try to time it, and test the "maintenance theory" on my kids. I’ll challenge you to do the same. Let me know what percentage of your time you are spending keeping your "home" in good repair!

Hmm. And I wonder what percentage of our day "marriage maintenance" should get? More food for thought.


Wendy said...

I feel like I am always in the maintenance mode w/keeping up the house, especially on Mondays when we have let things slide over the weekend. Never a dull moment, huh.

Your house looks beautiful!

Gwen Sirmans (Ivey's Mom) said...

I would go so far as to say---this little project you have going on is not a good 'theory', it is definately a way to live and to raise our precious little ones. They all need a good foundation and frame work to withstand all of this Earths weather and turmoil!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! Thanks so much. I need the reminder that you don't ever get there (wherever that is), it is a constant work in progress. THANKS!

Anonymous said...

What a great way to look at it! I'll be thinking of this, I'm sure.
A modern day parable-teller, you are.

I can very much relate to the house example. Our house is 107 years old. (Not as in beautifully restored old house... no,it was at one point purchased by the "we buy dilapidated ugly houses that nobody wants" people, who fixed it up cheaply, just enough to sell it. Seven years later we bought the aged results of their cheap repairs!) The list of essential/highly desirable repairs and updates is sooo long that we'd NEVER get to the fun, cosmetic stuff if I didn't act a little irresponsible now and again and just bump a little paint and fabric to the top of the list now and again! A girl can only live with a previous owner's love of fuschia and sponged Pepto Pink and black for so long, you know. Hmmm... if you think about it long enough ,I'm sure there's an application to parenting in that somewhere,too =)

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

I was so very encouraged by this entry. It actually fills me with a sense of longing for the days ahead! As a first time mom of a two-year, I actually look forward to the day when we are just doing "maintenance." This building up the foundations part is hard work! Thanks so much for the encouragement from the perspective of being down the road a bit on this journey.

Rachel Anne said...

Great analogy...maintenance takes time and energy, and I've noticed how things tend to fall apart if I don't work to keep them maintained.

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Great post. I'm certainly not crazy about home maintenance -- definitely not one of my favorite things, even though it's oh-so-necessary. But the thoughts on kid maintenance - good stuff, and very timely for me. Sometimes I get so discouraged and wonder "Have I really messed up in this parenting thing?" But your words hit home - maintenance is part of the deal, it's normal, expected, and oh-so-necessary. Thanks, Katherine.

Andrea said...

So, so good, Katherine. We like in a newer house now, so no real maintence like we did when we had an older home (always work.)

It is good to hear that you, too, feel the one step forward, two steps back training thing with your kids. I feel that way so often!! Now...accepting it.

And, I am up for that challenge.

Elise @A Path Made Straight said...

Character training is near and dear to my heart. It is a daily, almost minute-by-minute occurence around here.
And my children need it, too. :)
Great food for thought, Katherine!
I shall ponder as I paint, reflect as I rock, pray as I pile the laundry. And rejoice in the repetitive nature of this thing called parenting!

Amberly said...

What a great analogy! And one that is very applicable to me, having kids ages 8, 6 and 3. Thank you for this post!