Many little girls dream of becoming ballerinas. Others want to be teachers or princesses.
But my 3-year-old daughter— with her round, chubby cheeks and blonde pigtails — wants nothing more than to drive an excavator.
And it’s not too much of a surprise. Anyone who has been to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in the last few years knows that the city is in a constant state of construction. In the 2-mile commute from our home to my daughter’s preschool, we pass no fewer than three construction projects, including two road closures and a detour. Each day, as I pick her up from school and we head home, my daughter keeps her eye out for the big equipment. Her face lights up when she sees equipment in action. She’s a fan of cranes and bulldozers, but excavators, including backhoes, are her favorite.
“I’ll be a construction builder,” she’ll often tell us as we drive by. “I dig holes with the excavator.”
Luckily, we saved her big brother’s toy dump trucks and a yellow metal bulldozer. We already have a bin of plastic toy tools, which she’ll sometimes tinker with.
But none of it was as good as actually riding in an excavator.
Late last month, our family headed up to northern Minnesota to visit with cousins and spend time on the family farm where my grandfather grew up. It was a bit of a culture shock for my kids — not that we are city folk, because we aren’t — but staying on a farm where they got to ride horses, ride tractors and drive 4-wheelers, was thrilling for them. Even my 9-year-old daughter got to drive a 1947 open-top Jeep, with a little assistance, driving in circles in an open field, with giant grain silos in the distance.
It was while we were exploring the farm that my grandfather grew up on, the land where my great grandfather and great-great grandfather toiled that we saw them: Excavators. Not just one, but a giant excavator larger than any I’ve seen in Alabama; a smaller “backhoe” version and an older model that seemed to have been put out to pasture. My preschooler’s face lit up.
“EXCAVATORS!!” she shouted in her high-pitched squeal, running toward the parked machines.
My second cousin, who owns the farm, scooped her up in his arms.
“You want to drive one?”
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my little girl smile so big. She sat in my cousin’s lap and maneuvered the controls, scooping up the black earth, along with some corn stalks from one of the fields. They dug a hole until it was deep enough for my two youngest kids to stand in, and then all three kids played in the dirt.
At first I worried about the kids getting dirty — the black powder covering their fingers, toes and backsides. But, as my mom reassured me, we were on a farm!
When it was my son’s turn driving the excavator, my cousin had other ideas.
“Want to smash a car?” he asked my 6-year-old?
My son grinned. “YES!!” he said.
The backhoe crawled to another field where some old derby cars were parked. With my son at the controls, the backhoe’s bucket started smashing the roof of the vehicle, eventually crashing through the back windshield as my son whooped and hollered.
“That’s better than Disney World!” my son exclaimed has he climbed out of the machine’s cabin.
If only Disney World had excavators.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama. Reach her at email@example.com.