If Assembly Instructions Were Like Parenting Advice

by Rita Templeton
Originally Published: 
parenting advice

Raising a kid is hard. It’s like walking into an office building on your first day and being told you’re suddenly the CEO of the company (and the janitor, because kids are a freaking mess). It’s like, “Here, you’re in charge of this incredibly important thing despite your relative lack of experience so try not to screw it up.”

Needless to say, we’re all baffled by the mysteries of parenthood at some point. Okay — at most points. And we feel like failures sometimes because here we are, in the Golden Age of Information, with an entire internet and huge libraries full of advice at our disposal, and we still can’t figure things out.

But let’s stop and consider for a moment that all this parenting information may not actually be helping. Between this expert’s book and that must-read article and your mother-in-law’s “foolproof” methods, we don’t know what to believe. Can you imagine if everything we did was this complicated? Putting together a table, for example. If deciphering the instruction manual were anything like deciphering all that parenting advice, it would go something like this:

“Congratulations on the purchase of your beautiful new table! It will most likely look kind of like the photo on the box, though your model may vary, so try not to compare it to the one your neighbor just bought.

You should probably set it up in your kitchen, although your dining room might be a more suitable place, unless you’d prefer it in your bedroom. However, some furniture experts caution against having a table in your bedroom in case you bump into its edges in the night. So if you do assemble it in the bedroom, please ensure that you take the proper safety precautions.

Your table may or may not come complete with all the parts shown here. If any parts are missing, just try to celebrate how that makes your table different and unique. Similarly, due to the natural manufacturing process, you may notice that your table has varied markings, discolorations, chips, nicks, scratches, or gouges. Appreciate these to the best of your ability, and rest assured that even if it’s not exactly what you expected to get, your table will still fit in wonderfully with your décor, and it will still be functional in its own way. Probably.

Adjoin tab A and slot B. In some models, this may cause damage; in that case, improvise. Insert the screw (X) into the hole (Y), although depending on your model, you may require a different sized screw. Or maybe a bolt. We have heard of some customers who attained a successful result with a 9-gauge finishing nail (not included), but we cannot officially recommend this method.

Your table is made of the finest quality wood and therefore requires sustained care and attention to keep it in the best possible shape. Clean it regularly, but not too regularly in order to avoid depleting its natural oils. Tighten its screws as needed, but use caution, as overtightening may cause the wood to crack.

Do not place anything wet or excessively warm on its surface, even though it’s a table, because you never know how it’s going to react. Condition the wood with some sort of product, just be careful to test out a bunch of them first because some of them may strip the finish. If this happens, sand the spot, then prime, re-stain, and apply a coat of lacquer (water-based only). Or hire an expert to repair the damage. Just be careful who you hire because not everyone knows what they’re doing when it comes to furniture.

Given the proper care, your table should be an heirloom-quality piece you can be proud of. However, in some instances warping, sagging, or total breakage may occur regardless — in which case, we are not responsible. Good luck!

You see? If everything was even half as confusing as parenting, we’d all be walking around in tears. Picking and choosing which well-meaning advice to follow is sometimes more difficult than simply following our own instincts. Believe it or not, we’re much more capable than we give ourselves credit for.

Besides, sometimes even mistakes can turn out to be beneficial. If you try to build a table and you end up with a bookshelf, you’ve still arrived at the desired end result: a great piece of furniture. There’s a place in the world for bookshelves, too.

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