The Rocking Chair
“Can we make a rocking chair together daddy?”
I looked at my 7-year-old daughter in confusion. “What?”
“A rocking chair, we need to make one, and then I want to paint it!”
I tried to think about how to make a rocking chair. I was going to have to google “parts of a rocking chair” to know what the various components were called. The rockers! How was I going to make the rockers? It was hopeless, maybe my daughter would forget about it if I put it off.
“Sure, sure, but tomorrow okay? We have…uh…other stuff planned for today.”
The next day we got up early and went to the beach. The beach is one of my daughter’s favorite places. We got in the car, got the sand shovels, put on sunblock and headed out. We had a glorious day. The weather was perfect, the sun was shining, it was the kind of day you remember your whole life. My daughter was delighted.
“That was a good day, right?”
“Yes, it was daddy.”
“Are we going to build the rocking chair tomorrow?”
There’s no escaping the will of a seven-year-old once they get an idea planted in their mind. Fortunately, I’d had a day to get used to this rocking chair business. Some deep, dark corner of my mind had started to plan the thing.
That evening I put my girls to bed and read them a story like always. Before drifting off to sleep, my seven year old asked, “Are you excited about building the rocking chair tomorrow?”
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I am.”
The next day we got to work. I decided to use all the scrap wood that I keep around the house in case I might need it later. My wife always wants me to burn the wood, but I’m reluctant to because we might need it. In fact, I was reluctant to use it on a rocking chair because we might need that wood for something else.
We took a square block that had been the corner I cut out for the bathroom shelves and decided to surround it with a border. I don’t own a miter saw, but I have a miter box. It’s a plastic piece of junk that’s falling apart. My daughter helped stabilize the wood as I cut it. I needed 45 degree angles. When we had four, we attached them to the block.
“Can I drill daddy?”
“Um…okay.” Basically, she pulled the trigger and I pushed on the drill. We got the border on the wood block. Now it was a seat.
“Will you fit on this?” I held it up and she sat on it. She was delighted at the result.
We’d glued the piece as well as screwed it together, so we needed it to sit. “We’ll have to do the rest tomorrow.”
You’d think a kid might forget. Maybe I’d get a reprieve. Maybe I’d never have to finish the chair. But kids never forget.
* * *
The next morning, bright and early, she was ready to go in her work clothes. “Let’s get back to work on that rocking chair.”
I had some leftover 2 X 4s that I figured I could turn into rockers. I used the jigsaw to cut a curve along the bottom. I figured the bottom of the rocker had to be about one third of the way along its length to keep the chair from flipping over.
“Can I run the jigsaw daddy?”
“Um…okay.” Basically, she pulled the trigger and I pushed the jigsaw along the line I’d drawn with a sharpie.
“That was fun!” she said. To my relief, she still had ten fingers and ten toes.
Next, she helped me sand. She didn’t like it, the sander was a bit too big for her. She was very good about putting on her safety glasses. In fact, she reminded me to put mine one a few times.
“Dady, don’t forget your safety glasses!”
“You’re right dear, thanks for reminding me.”
I had a 2 X 2 that I figured I could use to attach the seat to the rockers. I ran it at an angle like an A-frame. Now, how was I supposed to get the rockers on there? My daughter had a lot of helpful suggestions. Sweat poured down my brow. After about four disasters, I finally got the rockers connected in a way that looked more or less right.
“Hooray! Can I sit on it now?”
“No, there’s no back and there’s not enough support, you’ll fall, or you might break the chair.”
We were just winging it. I decided I had to connect the two rockers with a perpendicular 2 X 2. Then I took a leftover piece of 2 X 4 and mounted it on the 2 X 2 to support the seat.
“This might actually work!”
“I know it’s going to work daddy! Should we take a break for today?”
“I think we’re almost done, do you want to keep going?”
I used another square block remainder from the bathroom shelves for the back. About then, my older daughter and my wife came outside to check our progress.
“Wow, that looks serious!”
“Isn’t it great!” my seven year old said, “Daddy can build anything!”
I snorted, “I hope it rocks.”
“It will daddy!”
We got the last few pieces attached. The end result wasn’t quite square in a couple spots, but it looked like a rocking chair, and it was solidly built. My daughter tried it out and was delighted.
She ran into the house and came back outside with a couple cans of paint. It was the paint I’d been storing in the closet for 10 years in case I needed it. My wife keeps telling me I have to get rid of that paint.
“Can we use this paint to paint the chair daddy?” my girls asked.
“Well, we might…” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that my wife was giving me a stern look. I cleared my throat. “Of course you can.”
The two girls set about painting. They used a technique similar to that of Jackson Pollock. It looked awesome when they were done.
“Now we have to let it dry.”
The next day we went outside again to check the rocking chair. My daughter jumped onto the seat. It did rock a little bit, and there didn’t seem to be a chance of it flipping over. She was happy, but I still had questions.
“Sweetheart,” I said, “why did you want to build a rocking chair.”
“I’ll show you,” she said.
She ran into the house and emerged a moment later with a baby doll swathed in blankets. Delicately she sat in the chair and began rocking her baby to sleep. She was the perfect vision of a young mother, sweet and loving.
“Well,” I said, “isn’t that adorable.”
I’m so glad I insisted we make that rocking chair.
Previously published on “A Parent Is Born, a Medium publication.
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