Monday, January 24, 2011

Lego Flow

It happened so suddenly that there was no time. No time to prepare our finances or our minds. Life is like that sometimes. When your life is turned upside down, as ours has, all you can do is hold on.

I'm talking, of course, about Legos. Any parent who has lived through this can understand.

I've always kinda prided myself on having kids that aren't that into toys. Owen asked for an electric pencil sharpener for Christmas this year. Last year, he asked for a mailbox. He's always had the requisite toy cars, paints, blocks, and trains. But really, given the choice, he would far prefer to help me scramble some eggs or sort the recycling.

Before the holidays, my mother called, looking for ideas for my grandmother's gift to the boys.  I suggested, "big boy Legos," and immediately forgot the conversation.

Christmas came, and Owen opened his box to discover this:

He then promptly disappeared for the next month. Following the step-by-step directions. Piecing it together. Tearing it apart. Replacing Lego light bulbs. Removing Lego trash. Bliss!

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a famous individual with a crazy-ass name,  introduced the concept of flow.  The idea is that when you're in a flow state, you are "fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity."

On my best days writing or teaching, I am in a flow state. Time stops, and the world opens. I am fully energized, humming with possibility. When I taught middle school, and occasionally hit the sweet spot where my students were flowing---it was a genuine rush.

Watching him work over his creations (because we have purchased many more Legos since Christmas), I recognize flow in my son. His forehead is furrowed in concentration, yet a smile still escapes. His self talk, "This piece, THEN that piece. I wonder when it's wheel time? I'm getting so good at this" is a sweet accompaniment to his efforts.

And he's working by himself, people. He doesn't want or NEED me. Often, his brother will sit next to him, watching him construct new worlds. I am invited to "go somewhere else."

So. This toy encourages creativity, problem solving, and spatial reasoning. He plays quietly, and includes his brother in his efforts.

I can get behind this toy. I am officially a fan.
My cousin came into town this weekend for a conference in DC. The 19 degree temperature thwarted our trip to the zoo. Instead, I dragged him to the Lego store. As we watched the store, packed with families that looked just like mine, my cousin spoke ruefully about the incident--the time when his younger brother had mercilessly destroyed his basement Lego airport.

I've heard this story in the past, but now understand the full ramifications of this act. I gasped, "No!" and patted his arm gently. I listened, resisting the urge to take notes, as my cousin explained the pros and cons of various Lego systems. I could have talked about this for hours.

By the way, my cousin is a fracking CIVIL ENGINEER. Another point in the Lego column.

Admittedly, there is a downside to Legos. They start reasonably priced, but that changes when you get into things like this:

One. Hundred. Dollars. Seriously?

Also, the pieces are microscopic. I've yet to step on any in the middle of the night, but I have scoured the underside of my refrigerator in attempts to retrieve them. That's a terrifying place. Nobody deserves that.

The people who design Legos are evil geniuses, because the toys grow with the kids. The gleam in my husband's eye when he works with Owen speaks volumes. I must confess, on more than one occasion, I've "fixed" my son's toys, mumbling to myself at the kitchen table, as he snoozes upstairs.

We won't speak of the furniture I made out of Duplos, and posted on Facebook. And my blog.

I fully expect that Legos will be a part of our world for sometime. And you know what? Worse things can happen.

Have Legos hit your home? When are you in a state of flow?


Cristina said...

Legos have been around for quite sometime here, and the kids love it.... even my two year old is really into it.

Formerly known as Frau said...

Legos will be in your life and on your Birthday/Christmas list for years to come! Buy stock now! And save for vacations to Legoland!

noisycolorfullively said...

I've been avoiding legos. The money, the tiny pieces strewn about the house. No thanks. But then, like you, we ended up with sets at Christmas.

It has been life changing. My child people have been clamering to label? He sits for hours on one focused task. My child who, just 15 short months ago, had not a clue how to "play" and lacked imagination (to put it kindly)? Creates towers and ships and worlds full of danger and humor and fun! My Child who had fine motor skill delays and low frustration tolerance? Well, he's learning to complete tasks on his own and find creative ways around engineering problems.

So... yeah, I'm drinking the lego Koolaid. And trying to figure out how not to mortgage the house in the process.

Caution Flag said...

There is no turning back. By late elementary school, there will also be Lego robotic$ camp$ and club$. In my next life, I am going to invent Legos.

TKW said...

Legos are one of the smaller evils where toys are concerned. Unless, of course, your kids leave them scattered around and you step on one while making a midnight voyage to the loo. Crippling pain!

Eternal Lizdom said...

Great post!

We are getting a Legos store in Indy- I'm excited. It's the kind of thing my husband and kids will really love!

My flow... is usually when I'm singing, especially in church, praising God, leading worship.

tsonodablog said...

Nancy, I went through the Lego days (years) with both my sons, and reading your post brought it all back. They are now a math teacher/actuarial and a lawyer, and I'm sure Legos helped! It must have been Legos because my cognitive/math skills leave much to be desired.

As for "flow", I love it when I have an idea for a piece (I write mostly short fiction stories) and begin typing, and then the story takes me away. Everything falls into place and I'm almost sorry when I'm finished. Yea, I like those times.....

Daffy said...

I'm sad to say that at this current stage in life my 'flow' is most often tapped into while doing laundry. If it gets cleaned, folded, hung or put away all consecutively I consider it a major success.

I LOVE that LEGO airport. And I too suffered from sticker shock when I purchased it prior to Christmas this year. Loved the photos.

LB said...

OMG, I hate Legos! I spent FOUR hours Christmas morning putting together my son's Star Wars Lego ship thingie b/c he thinks that is what Legos are for - Mama to put it together, him to play with it for 5 minutes or so until it breaks, and Mama to put it back together again. I've considered super gluing the parts so that I don't have to keep reassembling!

I like you perspective, though. I wish my kid loved the "flow" as much. Instead, he just wants the finished product. :-(

Snuggle Wasteland said...

We have TONS of Legos at my house. I have to say that I'm not a fan of stepping on the tiny pieces or fishing them out of the vacuum cleaner.

Did you know that LegoLand is opening in FL in October 2011? Guess where we're going for Fall Break?

Michele R said...

Plus those toy geniuses combine Star Wars and Legos together = major boy-coveting. Mine has received a Star wars Lego book encyclopedia and is reading it each night making a list of future kits he’d like.
We all love watching Elf every winter break and love the scene where Buddy the Elf has created Santa’s Workshop in the dept store and created Empire Building replicas, etc., out of Legos.

From Tracie said...

Legos hit my home several years ago and I loved it!!

They were some of my favorite toys when I was little......of course, they are awful when you step on them.

clearness said...

Sometimes Amazon has lego sets on sale for really cheap.

StarTraci said...

Holy Blocks, Batman. You are now a Lego Mom! Welcome, welcome to the exciting, fun-filled wallet-draining world of miniature blocks! My son loves Loves, LOVES Legos. Beware, however, the bigger kits have tons of little pieces that vacuum VERY easily and yet are VERY necessary to the build!

Ms. Moon said...

My kids didn't Lego so much but I am hoping my grandson does.
Flow- Oh. It's been a while since I really experienced that. Which reminds me of things I need to "let" myself do more often.

shortmama said...

No legos in our house...thank goodness for girls lol

formerlyonlyamovie said...

My ex brother in law grew up with a basement full of legos and declared that playing with them (well into his teen years) would help him become an architect. So yeah, he's an architect.

I miss legos in my house (but I don't miss stepping on them) - I took my son's crate and put it in my classroom.

Love that shot of your boy and his creations...

Cheryl said...

Unfortunately, we know The Lego all too well.

There's nothing worse than stepping on one of those suckers in bare feet.

Also, my kids were hot and cold. They like them, but once they built whatever it was, they were done.

I'm very sad about that. First, because I think it's a great activity they can do WITHOUT me, and second, all that wasted money!!

Alex said...

Lego is ridiculously expensive so last christmas I jumped on Ebay and bought buckets of the stuff. Which I now find myself vacuuming up because I can't be bothered picking it up.

(Florida) Girl said...

I am digging that quote about FLOW.

Most of my writing routine is not very glamorous, but the best moments are the ones that rush out of me--when I am crying/laughing/writhing at my own words.

PS I am still here for you if you have any pages for me.

Victoria KP said...

This is a lego house BIG TIME. My own Owen refers to himself as the Lego king :-). He's so obsessed that he managed to save $80 for a set he wanted (that's with a $3 per week allowance and the odd fiver here and there from Grammie). Unfortunately by the time he reached his goal the model he wanted was discontinued--SO disappointing! That's my one problem with Legos--they discontinue products after a very short time on the shelves.

Bekah said...

My sibs and I were never really into them, and neither are my kids. I don't know, a girl thing? So I had little respect for them until I visited the Mall of America in 2006 and saw a display of life-sized Harry Potter characters made of... Legos! Truly awesom.

Bekah said...

Ok I hope you know I meant awesome. With an E.