My eldest son builds things. He has been building and inventing things since he was just a babe. Cloth blocks became Bristle blocks. Bristle blocks became wooden blocks. Wooden blocks became Mega blocks. Mega blocks became Lego's. Lego's. were accumulated at a phenomenal rate. Bins and bins of Lego's. I mean multiple, LARGE storage bins overflowing with Lego's.…not boxes, not directions…just millions upon millions of tiny little pieces of Lego's. I would find a piece on the floor and proceed to just throw it in the garbage – after all we are housing millions of these things. But he always caught me and knew exactly which piece that was and what the plan for it was going to be. Those Lego bins are still housed in my basement closet as at nearly 17, he still cannot part with them. The Lego's. used to come with little "Lego Men". I recall picking them up while cleaning one day and going to toss them into the bin and Son #1 shouted at me! "Mom! Those are my friends." I guess you could say he was attached to his Lego's.
My son built many a creation - sometimes he even submitted them to a local toy store for contests. Building is something he has always taken very seriously. When he would get the latest Knex project our home became a construction zone until it was complete. After he had reached his maximum of Lego's. and Knex, he turned to Erector Sets. Eventually even those became to basic and simplistic and soon he was old enough to build with tools. Build things that he imagined or invented.
Our garage has been cluttered with potato canons and make shift contraptions of all sorts of creativity. He has built winning Pinewood Derby cars. (You know the cars that the dad's usually build and then the kids pretend they did? Not at my house...he built his own ALWAYS! He won his first car derby as a Tiger Cub when he was in 1st grade.) The best part is that the things that he dreamt always worked. They were mechanically correct. Each time. Built from his brilliant mind.
We've always called Son #1 "The Idea Man". He was always the guy to come up with idea of what to do, play or make. Countless memories fill my mind of watching the kids tying rope to the backs of bicycles, sled, trees, skateboards, scooters...all in the name of playful imaginative fun.
When Son #1 was 13, we went to visit a local private school. It isn't something that we had ever planned, but certainly something that crossed our path. After touring the school and spending time in the academic belly of the school - they took us into the gymnasium. It is a beautiful facility truly. Any athletic male would drool over those digs.
We climbed the stairs to the practice gym and tucked back behind some closed doors was a completely different world. We opened the doors and found the Robotics Lab. Dozens of computers lined the tables with kids typing code and creating all sorts of programs. There were rods of steel laying around on some tables and robots sitting with their controllers waiting to be demonstrated. I watched Son #1's eyes light up and knew he had found "home."
He is finishing up his Junior year now. He has built and driven those robots in tournaments regionally and helped his team make it to the World Championships. He has used his own money, birthdays and Christmases to collect his own robotic equipment and build here at home. His mind is always thinking of the next and the next...
Over the course of the past year Son #1 has also taken a keen interest in a sport called Longboarding. It is much different than your regular skateboarders that you probably see in your neighborhoods. They ride much different boards and skate down hills at top speeds performing all sorts of slides while wearing odd protective equipment. This is also an expensive sport and Son #1 managed to make his own equipment and build his own boards until this past Christmas when he asked for the real thing.
He is always trying to find a way to take his Longboarding to the next level. Over Spring Break, he made several trips to Lowe's with my husband. He had an idea - that morphed into plan - that eventually was his project. Son #1 designed and built his own street luge. No I am not joking. I'm not sure how most other teens spent their Spring Break - but mine? Well - he built a luge.
He turned the garage into his project center and I heard him out there with all sorts of power tools. He knew exactly what he wanted to do, what would work and how he would do it. No kit. No instructions. Remember this is "The Idea Man."
So the night before my husband was due to leave for the week, Son #1 put the last touches on his luge. Then he took it to the big hill by our home in our neighborhood. My husband went to watch. Son #1 wore his dirt bike helmet for safety. He laid down on that board and took off down the hill.
My husband returned to gather his brothers to go watch. He tried to get me. But I didn't go. They all went to the hill - they all watched Son#1 and his street luge. Neighbors and passer bys even stopped to watch. After all- how often is it that you see a kid luging down the street in your neighborhood. Other kids came to watch..."Can I try it?"
My husband asked me to go watch again.
I just couldn't do it. I still haven't. In fact, I gave him instructions that he wasn't allowed to do it until his father got back from the trip. I cannot even believe he built it and it works. I am worried for his safety and I just can't watch my son speed down a hill on his back on a luge he built out of plywood in our garage.
I know that he is disappointed that I won't let him do it. I also said that when he does, he needs to take his brother along as a "spotter" for traffic. It is hard for me to fathom that I am having to set up rules and boundaries for a homemade street luge. Not something that every parent thinks they will encounter. Not really something that I can "Google", ya know?
His neighborhood skating friends all want to ride it. But Son #1 is too smart for that. He says to me, "Why should I let them ride it? It took me a week to build and cost me $100.00 - do you think I am going to let them break it?" Hopefully he will stick to that theory - the thought of having to deal with an angry parent because their child got hurt riding my child's invention is not appealing to me.
My husband and I have wondered if this will become some new trend in the community. Will garages soon be filled with teenage boys and power saws? Will The Home Depot decide to host a Saturday How to Build a Street Luge class? Will there be a plethora of homemade street luges racing each other down the hills...he seems to be drawing quite a bit of attention. He is talking about having someone film him and post it on You Tube. (Or at the very least, facebook.)
I guess it is true -
If you build it, they will come...
P.S. Today while pumping gas into our truck, he stuck his head in the car and said, "The design they use to keep the gas pumping independently is pretty sketchy. I could definitely come up with a better plan than that. I've got ideas..."