As soon as we arrived to the Maker Faire, my son was in hands-on heaven. He shunned any exhibit that was just showing demonstrations and moved quickly to any booth where he could make something. He learned how to extract strawberry DNA from Standford graduate students. He made soap. He learned about mixing epoxy. Our morning was going well. So well that I started to get a little cocky as a parent. My son seemed to be in control and handling everything that was thrown at him.
While we sat at lunch listening to a man play percussion with pots, pans, and garbage cans, my son noticed the sign. “What does sole-der mean, mom?” he asked innocently enough. Sole-der. Ah, solder. As in sod-der. As in fusing two pieces of metal together.
My son loves tools. He’s smart. I’ve soldered once before. We could handle this.
When we entered the Radio Shack tent to make our own Maker Faire robot, my son was so excited. I gave a short lecture on how this stuff gets really hot and can burn you so pay attention. I forgot to add, this stuff can also burn mommy.
On step two, my son accidentally touched my finger with the soldering iron. I was holding the button down and literally got too close for comfort. I instinctively pulled my hand away quickly. But I didn’t say anything to my son. We still had a half-dozen more steps to go. I didn’t want to scare him. And I wanted to finish this button.
With each step, I took over more and more of the soldering process. I was getting more and more afraid that he would burn me again. Or worse, burn himself.
It took us some time, but we finished that robot button. My son was so proud to wear it. I was just grateful that the tiny burn on my finger was the only boo boo of the day. Sometimes hands-on can mean getting hurt. It’s a part of life. The bumps and bruises (and now burns) are what makes life.
When my son saw the burn, he gave me a hug and told me that he didn’t mean to burn me. So glad to know that it was unintentional. A part of me looks forward to the scar and the story of when I let my not-yet eight year old using a soldering iron at the Maker Faire.