My 12 year old son handed me his 2016 Christmas List, and it was a list of computer parts. I asked what he planned on doing with them, and he said with pride,“I am going to build my own computer.” This is my child that does not handle disappointment well.  I looked back down at the list of carefully chosen parts and immediately began thinking of the all the ways this could go wrong, but I answered him with, “I will have to think about this.” I mean what if he spends all his Christmas money on the parts and we couldn’t get the darn thing to power up, leaving him with a heap of parts that want to be a computer and devastated.

The following day he asks if I am willing to hear his 5 reasons why it would be a good Christmas gift.  I listened as he goes through his reasons:

  1. If I build my own computer, I will know how to make upgrades later as they are needed.
  2. I can get a more powerful computer for less money.
  3. It would be a great learning experience for me and I promise I will watch lots a videos on how to do it before we start.
  4. With a better computer I can play games that I cannot play on my current computer with its crappy internal graphics card.
  5. It would be a fun mother/son project for us to do together.

All good points, how could I say no to that? So I agreed to it as long as he keeps in mind that this is a learning experience and there is a chance that it may not be as easy as he expects. That it means being patient and doing this thoughtfully. After all, he would have a lot to lose if it did not work.

In the months leading up to Christmas he researched and made updates to his list of parts as he learned more. I was able to surprise him Christmas morning with the Tower and Video Graphics Card I purchased off his list. That was all he got and he could not have been happier. So now he needed to round up the rest of the money for the remaining parts.  He went through the list of Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents and decided he should receive enough money, and he did.

It was now January and time to purchase the remaining parts and build the computer….I prayed for it to go well so it would not be a waste of his Christmas. We picked a weekend when we have plenty of time to shop and take time to build the computer. Luckily, our local Micro Center had everything we needed. We headed to the back of the store, past the ready-to-go out-of-the-box computers to the aisles of computer parts, and my son smirks, “my computer will be sooo much better than any of these.” I asked him for his list so I can get an associate to help us gather the parts.  “Where is your list,” I ask, and he points to his head, “up here Mom.” I found a sales associate to help and they begin talking another language of parts, model numbers, DDR4, gigabytes and so on and soon come back with a cart full of components.

The next morning I woke up to find him at the kitchen table with all the parts setup and him admiring his loot. We opened each box carefully and handled each part properly. Using a handy metal wrench to discharge any possible static, we began by attaching the motherboard to the tower, then the CPU to the motherboard, installed the power, memory, monster graphics card and finally pluged in all the LED plugs into their proper place…attached the power cord, hit the power button and … Nothing happened. I looked up at my son as his face turns from pure excitement to utter disappointment. As tears well in his eyes, I catch him before he goes into end of the world mode, “let’s take a look at the LED plugs they were not marked well and I bet we connected something wrong there.” We looked up the motherboard online and discover there are some wrong connections, make the adjustments and Viola! We had power.

I think we both took a few things away from this experience. What I learned was that he is a pretty smart 12 year old. We both learned to have patience with each other, and respect for dealing with fragile items.  I am proud of my son, and wouldn’t trade this experience in for the world. When you want something, you will do what it takes to make it work, and he proved to me, and to himself, that he had the skills, knowledge and emotional maturity, to take his Christmas wish and make it a reality.

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