A 7-year-old Columbus girl has the two biggest men in her life happily wrapped around her little finger.
How else would you explain a young lady with no money being able to motivate a couple of guys to build a house exclusively for her own use?
But when the guys are Addy Newman’s father and grandfather, and her free house is a tree house, explanations begin to fall into place in Flat Rock Park North subdivision.
It was Dan Newman, 43, who first thought the large tree in the backyard of his parents’ Beach Tree Drive residence would make a great tree house for his daughter.
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“It was (my father) who did the bulk of the labor and the building,” said Newman, a mechanical engineer for Dunlap and Co.
But Dennis Newman, 70, quickly noted that his son worked alongside him at several critical times during the two- month-long construction period, as well as provided valuable engineering expertise.
The retired Cummins Inc. systems administrator explained he initially wanted to put up a 4-by 8-foot base with an simple A-frame roof made from two sheets of plywood.
But as his son the engineer kept proposing new ideas, Newman said the project evolved into a four-walled tree house with:
10-foot x 10-foot base
5½ feet tall ceiling
Functional vertical windows
There’s also a rope, bucket and pulley system running from her grandparents’ patio balcony that comes in handy for quick transports of snacks and bottled water.
“It’s probably over-engineered,” Dennis Newman said. “In fact, I was ready to pull my hair out thinking about what we were attempting to do.”
The trickiest part of the job, which involved cutting a large part of a tree down to a precise height to provide a solid foundation, was left to professionals, Dan Newman said.
Although building materials cost about $1,000, the family spent four times that amount to hire a tree removal service, his father said.
“We both took extra care because we knew this tree house would be holding something very special,” Dennis Newman said.
The year-old tree house is currently furnished with a desk, shelves, chairs, coat hook and battery-powered lights.
“I like playing up here, listening to my CDs, and looking at my rock collection,” said Addy, who will be in second-grade this fall at St. Bartholomew Catholic School. “They (father and grandfather) made me very, very happy.”
But since Addy’s friends have started coming over while she’s visiting her grandparents, she said she thinks a few improvements might be needed, her father said.
“Her list included sofa, table, sink, TV …” Dan Newman said with a laugh before looking down at his daughter’s inquisitive face.
“We’ll just have to see,” he gently told Addy.
As Dennis Newman recalled, his overworked dad had no time and little patience for childish things such as tree houses when he was growing up in the 1950s.
For that reason, Dennis Newman became determined to be a different type of father when he and his wife, Sharon, began raising children 45 years ago, he said.
When they married, Sharon Newman already had three young children from a previous marriage, Addy’s 69-year-old grandmother said.
However, her new husband displayed exceptional paternal skills with his stepkids, Sharon Newman said.
Dan Newman fondly remembers when his father would take him on outdoor fishing or camping expeditions, as well as play Cowboys and Indians with him at home.
When fathers choose not to spend time with their children, they miss out on experiences that represent the whole meaning of existence, Dan Newman said.
“Kids are what life is all about,” he said. “When you spend time with them, you are contributing to the future.”
His father shares like opinions on parenting.
“I think the key to being a good father is to treat children like real people,” Dennis Newman said. “If you do that, you are probably going to be 10 to 12 steps ahead of everyone else.”
While watching her husband and youngest son playing with her grandchildren under the tree house, Sharon Newman said there was one other quality both men share that make them great fathers.
“Big hearts,” she said. “And that will shape Addy’s attitudes.”
Addy, meanwhile, has begun to worry about an eventual invasion of boys into her tree house — or at least one.
Little brother Ben is seven months old.
But when asked how she feels about the older two men in her life, the young girl didn’t hesitate to gaze at her father and grandfather with pure adoration.
“I just love them a lot,” the young girl said as she embraced both men — who seemed to melt just enough to fit snugly once more around Addy’s little finger.
Child development experts identify four traits of a good father, who strives to:
- Place their child before themselves.
- Be a positive role model.
- Protect their child from harm.
- Allow their kids to make their own mistakes, and learn from them.
Meanwhile, the four most common public perceptions of a father’s role are:
- To provide both financially and emotionally for his children.
- To work in partnership with the mother to provide consistent forms of discipline.
- To give his children affection and warmth.
- To show support and love through actions, as well as words.