It’s a cliché, I know, but I had no idea this day would come so fast.
Wasn’t it only yesterday that he was pining for the latest gazillion-piece Star Wars ship? Meticulously assembling them, one tiny gray square at a time? Arranging them on his shelves and dresser top with the precision of a museum curator?
But then it happened. Just before last Christmas, I got the announcement: “No Legos this year, okay Mom?”
It should have been a relief. How many hours had we spent during Christmases past tracking down the one remaining Millennium Falcon or some other high-demand, ridiculously-priced galactic vehicle in 3,500 pieces?
How many years of my life had I spent stooping and retrieving those teeny tiny pieces of plastic from every surface of the house?
But I couldn’t help thinking back with a little regret. Legos have been a part of our lives since he was in preschool. From his preschool prehistorics to his fifth-grade Richard Nixon, Lego was the one toy he seemed never to outgrow. They cost too much, they ended up everywhere and I was forever griping about finding them underfoot. More than once, I threatened to vacuum them up. But I always went out of my way to pocket them and carry them back to his room.
There is one little, yellow, square-faced man I still find everywhere.
I pick him up from under the couch cushions, on the counter in the kitchen, on the stairs. He is the Flat Stanley of Legos, travelling from room to room, reappearing in the most unlikely places.
“I am going to throw this away, the next time I find it where it doesn’t belong,” I threaten. But I never do.
The truth is, I marvel at my son’s patience in assembling hundreds of tiny pieces into a spaceship, a batmobile or a battle station of his own design. Those detailed instruction books leave me dizzy. But he could sit with them for hours, deciphering page after page. He was such a serious little builder, all big brown eyes and focus.
His first best friendship in the world was forged around a mutual Lego obsession. For years and years - until just this minute practically - there was nothing he would rather do than spend the afternoon on the floor surrounded by his Legos and a best friend.
Sometimes that was me. “Do you want to play Legos with me?” he would ask hopefully. I said ‘yes’ more than I wanted to, and ‘no’ more than I wish I had now.
It wasn’t easy. Sitting on the rug of his bedroom listening to the scratch of plastic against plastic as he dug through an enormous bin to find one particular piece out of a million, I was always fighting my compulsion to get something done. I could never just sit and build like he wanted me to. I could never stay in the moment.
I’d start thinking about some stupid chore I wanted to finish or about how his room was a mess. The next thing I knew, I’d be organizing Legos by size and color, explaining to him how much easier it would be if he kept all the little guys in one bin, all their little accessories in another and all the like-shaped pieces together.
“See?” I would say, “I’ve put all the six-pegged pieces in this drawer and the three and four-pegged pieces underneath. Isn’t that better?”
He never stopped me, even though he really just wanted me to design a spaceship and battle with him for dominion over the galaxy. But he was willing to settle for whatever would keep me there on the rug.
Eventually, it became a little joke with us, because none of my organizational systems ever survived the next round of play. Maybe digging around through a 50-gallon bin of little pieces was part of the fun. But it was a long time before I could give up on my compulsion to organize them.
Now it seems my not-so-little boy is ready to part with his collection. Money is the new object of his affection. He collects it, he counts it, he thinks about ways to invest it. He looks around his room for stuff that he can sell. Will he flinch I wonder, when the time comes to actually pack this stuff up and send it off to some other boy?
Maybe, I tell him, you could save them for your little boy. But I know even as I say it that it is a stupid idea. What 13-year-old kid thinks like that?
He wants the money. In just a few more years, he’s going to want a car, not a plastic spaceship. I know that.
But I also know that there is more than plastic in those bins. It’s 85,000 pieces of his childhood. And I am the one who has to Lego.
Photos: There is more than plastic in this bin. (There may also be candy wrappers and dirty socks.); Also, Lego Richard NixonMore from the Toy Archives: In which Barbie and the Winx Club fairies battle for dominion of the universe and I am forced to take sides
ah yes... legos.
How we hate them. Stepping on them. Accidently vacuuming them, effectively rendering our vacuum cleaners worthless. Finding them everywhere they shouldn't be and nowhere they should.
And how we hang onto them.
My kids used the same huge container full of legos their older cousin Mike had as a boy.
And we still have them.
I have a grandson now, you know, and in a couple more years...
Posted by: suddenly suburban | March 09, 2008 at 12:19 PM
The words have passed me by. I'm stuck giggling that they are in a PLASTIC BIN!!
Posted by: Miss Britt | March 09, 2008 at 06:38 PM
This is wonderful (seriously, do you have an agent to peddle your potential collection? I'm not one, so don't worry. Wait, maybe I should become one. I'll do it, I think your posts are great).
I got a bit teary b/c just Saturday I was tired from getting ready for house guests and sat alongside my six year old who asked if I could help him build a house. He looked eagerly at the pictures on the lego tub, and then, I'm embarrassed to say, I helped him whip up a rectangle with a door. No window. And it was only a 1 story, even though we had 30,000 blocks to use up.
Posted by: Ok, Where Was I? | March 11, 2008 at 07:51 AM
I always got frustrated by the wordless instructions that came in the boxes when I was a kid. I usually just ended up trying to figure it out on my own.
As an adult, the only comparable I can think of is Ikea directions. I've tried figuring those out on my own, but it doesn't work out quite as well. I usually end up with dangerous leaning bookshelves that would most likely kill a small child...
Posted by: Gaycondo | March 11, 2008 at 10:50 PM
My brothers and I spent HOURS scratching at our Legos. We kept them in the bottom drawer of a very large bureau; that sucker was full to the brim. The Legos are now in a kind of passive-aggressive custody battle between Brother #1, he of the undying Lego obsession but without children, and Brother #2, he who has three kids.
The best part about saving them for posterity? Mama Kamikaze gets to do that.
You write so well.
Posted by: foolery | March 12, 2008 at 04:09 PM
I admit it, I came here to see if my fave blogger had anything to say about former Gov. Spitzer's marriage. But I would rather read about Legos ... I am still putting them in my pockets and picking them out of the laundry. And I want to say, don't let him sell them, SK. I know it seems like a long way off, but one of the things my kids love about visiting their grandparents is the giant *plastic bin* in the basement full of their uncles' old Legos. I know this doesn't help your organizational plan, but I don't think you or he will regret it.
Keep up the wonderful writing SK and thank you for it!
Posted by: Cynthia Barnett | March 13, 2008 at 01:21 PM
Played Legos just this weekend. Joey is getting more and more into them.
SK, you nailed exactly our greatest Lego-related parental sin: It's not saying "No." That's too hard; I can't usually bring myself to say that. It's saying "Yes," but then not being THERE -- thinking about everything else we have to do (let's admit it, WANT to do).
I really could have done without tearing up just after lunch, you know.
Great article, great writing, as always.
Posted by: Robert K | March 17, 2008 at 11:24 AM
Came here from Bossy and kept reading.
I know how you feel, my son has had Legos for Christmas since he was one. Probably I was projecting, making up for the fact that in our family, my brother got Lego and I got Barbies, but it was the one mom & son activity that I could invest myself in completely without having to kick myself in the butt.
When we moved across the country last summer, I asked him to keep only the toys he REALLY wanted and it broke my heart to see the Lego bin in the "leave" pile.
Somehow, I felt this meant my little boy was gone. I brought the Legos anyway and once in a while I find a block here or there that tells me I did the right thing.
Thanks for sharing. Danielle
Posted by: Danielle | April 23, 2008 at 02:00 PM
I also found you via Bossy. I love this post and could have written it myself (though not nearly as well as you). My son is 10 and I bet he will Lego with me if I can simply find the time to do so.
The carpet cleaners are coming today (!) and I imagine I will unearth several potential Lego projects as I scurry around getting all the stuff OFF the floors in preparation.
Thanks so much for the reminder -
Bonnie in Houston
Posted by: Optimist | April 24, 2008 at 07:37 AM
I found you through Bossy.
I live in Chicago, too.
I have a 13-year-old boy, too.
He never really liked Legos all that much. So why am I all verklempt?
You ... you ... you excellent writer, you.
Posted by: Poppy Buxom | April 27, 2008 at 09:05 PM