I remember this from before. When my first two boys were younger. They still thought it was fun to pal around with Dad while he tried to fix things around the house. Somewhere around age six or seven, they began to get more interested in their own projects and helping me turned into a chore. Literally. But my four-and-a-half-year old still thinks it’s fun to be Daddy’s little helper. And so do I (most of the time).

The majority of my fix-it projects seem to involve plumbing. Our current house in Virginia may, in fact, be cursed by Poseidon. (Maybe I’m watching too many Percy Jackson movies). In just over two years, the water main has broken three times. The water heater has been replaced twice. The sinks, showers and toilets have all had at least one leak, stoppage or break – often at the same time. Our water has been too hot, too cold, too much and too little.

It’s crazy. At any given time, something is usually out of service. I wrote a post a few years ago about how I was going to send my boys to trade school so we could open a family plumbing service. At this rate we might not need any customers but ourselves.

So my little man likes to help, which usually means watching, occasionally handing me something, and often providing a running commentary. He enjoys peering into the toilet tank (who doesn’t, really), and sink drain and exclaiming how things look gross but cool.

A few weeks ago we were replacing the flushing mechanism inside the toilet tank, and I asked him to hand me the thin piece of rubber tube.

“What’s that called?” he asked.

I consulted the instruction page and with a smile told him it was called the ‘fill-valve nipple.’ He stared at me straight-faced for a beat to see if I was messing with him. Then he grinned wide and started laughing. It quickly became his favorite plumbing term ever. Not that I should have been surprised. What boy doesn’t think anything to do with a nipple is funny? (Or man, for that matter.) For the next few days, no matter what our activity, he was sure to ask if we needed a fill-valve nipple.

Another toilet came down with the same ailment the next week and soon he and I were hunting through the plumbing section at Lowes. As we cruised down the aisle, he suddenly stood up in the cart and pointed.

“Look Dad,” he shouted proudly, “it’s a fill-valve nipple!”

Everyone in the store, or at least that aisle, turned around and stared at us. I couldn’t help but laugh.

This week, I was on my back, tools at my side, attempting to discover the origins of a foul smell emanating from beneath the kitchen sink. As anyone who’s tried to work under a sink can attest, it’s a job best left to midget contortionists. After nearly getting my head stuck between the drain pipe and the garbage disposal more than once, I hypothesized that we needed a new sewer pipe vent cover.

I turned to my young assistant and informed him that we had to make another trek to Lowes.

“Need a new fill-valve nipple?” he asked, right on cue.

“No, not this time,” I explained. “We need a different sized pipe connector.”

“Why is that piece broken?” he asked. “Is it because you’re too old?”

Sometimes a Dad just doesn’t know what to say.

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