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?