GROWING PAINS: Renovation Is Parents' Nightmare, Kids' Fun

There is a saying in Russian that a remont, or renovation, can't be finished f it can only be stopped. Last year, when we moved to a new place that was more spacious and convenient but that had long been neglected by its for mer owners, I felt the full force of the wisdom of that saying.

Having spent the summer months in the distressing conditions of having plumbing changed, walls painted, floors ripped up f exhausted physically and financially f we finally decided to stop the remont until the following summer.

Now that the dread time has come, we face a couple more weeks of this painful process. But what is a nightmare to us parents seems not to bother the children at all.

Dasha, our 1-year-old daughter, actually likes the abundance of colorful jars and sacks in the apartment. She finds it funny that, in addition to the usual garbage can and toilet bowl brush, there are now other items in her home that she can inspect and, in so doing, elicit an immediate reaction from her parents.

Sometimes, when the apartment becomes suspiciously silent, I find her, to my horror, sitting in a distant corner, her legs splayed sideways, her fingers exploring screw-bolts or nails.

Our 8-year-old son, Yegor, has some new entertainment, too. In addition to his usual piles of toys, he has a new heap of "building materials," including splintery, wooden strips, rusty nails or pieces of electric cord. He greatly values his instrumenty, his tools, and keeps close watch on them so that not a single item in his collection disappears.

Yegor spends his days hovering around the construction worker, Sergei, asking him questions on the details of the repair process and imitating his actions. Yegor respectfully calls Sergei "the master." It seems that my son has yet another adult authority figure whose opinion is important to him and whom he often quotes. Once he asked me suspiciously: "Did Dad serve in the army?"

"No, thank God," I replied.

"The master says every real man should serve in the army," Yegor said firmly.

As a result of Yegor's new passion for repairs, we now have a wardrobe door partially painted green, Yegor's pants are torn, and his fingers have been injured with a hammer.

I'm beginning to think that the traditionally distressing elements of a remont f the ubiquitous white dust, the window-rattling noise, the long, inexplicable delays f are not the worst of it. To cope with them is sometimes easier than constantly keeping my daughter from fussing with the paint cans or talking my son into not sawing up his sister's new swing.

I see only two ways of overcoming the situation: take the family out to the captivity of the dacha f or stop the annoying remont until next summer.