Dad + Gadget = Fail: Tinker Toys

December 17th, 2009  |  by  |  Published in Dad + Gadget = Fail  |  5 Comments

Let’s get this straight:I was raised by a father who couldn’t fix anything, couldn’t build anything, was not (and is not) a tinkerer, a mender, or to his credit, a borrower (be). He was  a New Yorker, folks, and we have guys who deliver that stuff.

I have a little edge on my dad in this regard, via my step-father, who is a professional mechanic, amateur pilot, and all around gee-whiz expert with tools. He has a personal relationship with his Snap-on tool man that I can only witness, enviously, from the periphery.

I can, however, change the oil in my car, switch out the brakes, and bullshit my way through a conversation with my Fucking Car Guy out in Canarsie, who runs a shop my stepfather approves of because you can eat off the floor it’s so clean.

So I have some mechanical capacities. But if that’s the case, why am I in a cold sweat at the thought of buying my three-year-old a TinkerToy set for Hanukkah?

The problem is that everything I know about fixing cars I learned by rote, through much error, and great trial (my shop stories about Bubba, a fellow mechanic, would take up an entire other blog). I can’t actually put anything together on my own.

These are the sorts of things you don’t want your child to know about you, largely because you don’t want them to know it about themselves. Whenever a boy-child comes into my family we all joke that he’s going to be “the next Jewish point guard for the Knicks.” (God bless you, Ernie Grunfeld). Never mind that in this Knicks era, JP might rate a few minutes off the bench; really, we all know it ain’t gonna happen. But he should be able to avoid knowing this for a while, yes?

I’ve been searching the web for like-minded spatially-challenged folk, and I thought I found it at this website: But closer inspection revealed that the fails there were ironic (isn’t everything?). Any website with posts like “Quick RFID “Hack” Saves Time at Key-Card Powered Doors” does not have insight for the man who can’t handle Lincoln Logs.

So maybe this isn’t gadget fail, after all. It’s Dad Fail. Sorry kiddo. I yam what I yam.


  1. Tim says:

    December 17th, 2009at 5:27 pm(#)

    I’d highly recommend Lego for helping with what you’re describing. It sounds like you don’t have trouble with putting things together, but with reading pictogram based instructions and translating them into the real world (which is a completely different skill). That’s the “Ikea syndrome” you describe.
    Start with the tiny $5-10 sets. They generally have very few duplicate pieces, which makes the learning of translating pictogram to real life much easier. Then gradually move up to larger sets.
    Pretty much every geek I know who is good at taking things apart and putting them back together had a childhood rich in Lego. Lots and lots of Lego sets.

  2. ShotgunDaddy says:

    December 17th, 2009at 7:39 pm(#)

    I’m right there with you — or, to be honest, a ways behind. My dad could fix anything, but I resisted all his attempts to pass his knowledge down to me. Even though I can do a lot of dad-type things well, it makes me feel a bit small when something around the house breaks and my daughter says, “Uncle Jon will have to come over and fix this.” Ah, well…

  3. Theodore says:

    December 18th, 2009at 7:30 am(#)

    Tim–“The Lego Syndrome.” I like that, particularly when paired with my advanced case of All-Thumbsitis. Appreciate the tip.–Theodore.

  4. Theodore says:

    December 18th, 2009at 7:31 am(#)

    Shotgundaddy–I feel your pain.

  5. Rick says:

    December 30th, 2009at 10:54 am(#)

    In my situation, my father is tinker extraordiaire, and I followed suit.

    My 8yo son, however, is a special situation. He has amazing abilities to put together a 900pc Lego Star wars thingamabob in 2 hours, but he can’t tie shoes. As hard as I’ve tried to teach him how to ‘tinker’ with things, (take them apart, put them together and have no parts left over)it’s results are akin to pushing a rope. He can’t get the concept of how to use a ratchet wrench (like his mom), whereas my 5yo daughter could possibly reassemble a dumptruck with a paperclip and some duct tape.

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