Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Drama of the Lego-Gifted Child

There is a battle raging, silently, in my tub. Rather, in a salsa container full of water in the tub.
Scuba Mini-Figure guy is holding a purple crystal, and holding onto a yellow Rock Monster, who has an enormous sword, the size one should not be able to yield in real life. Another giant sword floats in the water nearby, always out of reach of Scuba Guy... and they float like this all night, grappling each other in a mortal combat which Kiddo contrived out of his cool, freaky little head.

"Honey, why are there Legos in the bathtub?" I ask my husband this. Kiddo doesn't like baths, so I know it wasn't just a toy migration for some water play. Joe answers that this was the better option; the salsa container of water was originally on a shelf in Kiddos room. I'm glad there was some logic involved,and glad that we have one of those drain-strainers in the shower, because Kiddo loves to make Lego creations which have to do with water.

The only real problem with this is that Legos neither sink, nor are they entirely buoyant. Which means that Lego boats take on water but Lego Forts full of trapdoors also don't stay righted at the bottom of the sink or tub, but haphazardly float along.

That's not the only place they float. Legos are migrating all over my house. We joke that our parenting style can be, at times, one of benevolent dictatorship, and I have repeatedly banned Legos from the kitchen. I work there, dammit, and if you can't eat it or eat off of it, get out of my kitchen. Really, they are like an invading army. They have the living room, they have spread out to the dining area, which is really just like the living room extended, because our house is a small bungalow and the archway between the two is just a suggestion of separation and who are we kidding anyway?

It has occurred to me, on more than one occasion, that Legos are plastic and plastic is forever and that the Legos may very well outlast me in this house if all goes well and we pass it along to Kiddo.
Let's hope HIS kids are then playing with them and it's not just him at a huge table in the basement, all by his lonesome. (I'll lower the bar and say that if he's part of an adult Lego club, that's cool too. Just so long as he's getting out, right?) I get the feeling that hundreds of years from now, if we haven't plasticized and dumbed-down the human race out of existence, that someone is going to find the artifacts of this activity in the very ground my house currently sits on.

Just because Kiddo is enthralled with All Things Lego and has sung "Everything Is Awesome" in every vocal style possible (including mumble-mouthed and slurred), it doesn't mean we share every Lego moment with him. There was a recent Lego version episode of The Simpsons and my husband asked if I'd let Kiddo watch it. Uh, no. Legos don't make it a kid's show... but I'll bet Legos are a fun indulgence of some of their staff and many of their regular adult viewers. I'm a bit geeky that way, which is why I love the show; where else do you get such literary tips of the animation hat as spoofs of Robert Frost's "The Road Less Traveled" which somehow morphs into Marge reading "The Rug Less Vacuumed" (a tome meant for my house as vacuums inevitably mean that some sort of Black Hole is existent in the Lego Universe)?

There are some lines I draw in regard to Legos. Like the Lego magazine? Not the Kid's Club, which is already pretty promotional, but the actual catalogs. That publication is not allowed in our house at present, lest we hear the endless strains of "I Want...." It's bad enough that there are the published LEGO Encyclopedias , which are nothing more than really cool, simplistic catalogs as it is. At least those are finite; once printed, they stay the same for at least a while. We don't leave out toy catalogs anyway, lest Kiddo is infected with a bad case of the Gimmes over toys he doesn't even really want.

We have thousands of Legos here in this house. I've spent what feels like hundreds of hours focusing on Legos, building next to him, helping him build structures, even having to restart and reformat the old laptop I had when some Lego building instructions came with a new browser, surprise surprise. (WTH!) But by far and away, I've spent the majority of my contact with the plastic bricks in clean-up mode. I have found them far away behind the couch. I do my best to do a clean sweep before getting out the Kirby, but sometimes there's that telltale "clackety-click-clack" as it is inducted into the vac bag full of dust, hair and other crap. No, I won't open up the vacuum bag for that Lego. Don't even ask.

Add to this, the emotional clean-ups I must regularly attend to when the Legos aren't coming together correctly, when the project isn't going to plan -- mainly because there was no plan to begin with, just an idea. When the lack of engineering experience becomes evident, there can be Exploding Legos, Legos hurled down in disgust at the self and faulty inexperience; the short temper, lack of knowledge and  desperate frustration all hallmarks of childhood in any case. It's hard, then, to reason with someone that their dream structure may not be a reality because, see, over here instead of that one cool brick? you need more support under that next level if the top is to stay on. The architecture of the Lego structures is bound to the same rules most earthly structures are and defying those rules can result in Ice Monster Cave Collapse or Horrible Haunted House Hassles or Variations on Vehicular Vexation.... or, in short, tears.

I remind Kiddo that sometimes, his ideas are just too advanced for his abilities as yet, and that, as he learns more math and geometry, he's going to become a better Lego builder. For all the rhetoric in The Lego Movie about everyone being awesome and special and important, I think what we forget is that to be good at most anything, you have to bring more than creativity and imagination to the game: you have to know the basics of building, period. There's value in knowing the basics, understanding the fundamentals, in being able to translate an idea into an actual physical manifestation of what one wants to make. Just as dreaming aloud does not translate into someone's fantasy home (we take those ideas to an architect, so our dream house doesn't fall down around our ears), creativity alone needs the partnership of  knowledge for ideas to thrive. I'm hopeful that this will happen, but do not expect it too soon.

It's going to be a Lego Summer. I can feel it in my bones. And under my toes! Ouch! 
With steady hands, Kiddo carries his watery creation into the kitchen, Scuba Mini-Guy and Rock Monster. "Mom! See? They are in the biggest battle ever." Holding back the "not in the kitchen!" I bite my tongue and smile. And move the computer off the table, lest the water spill, adding more spice to my life than necessary.  Drama of the Legos indeed!


No comments: