Saturday, January 28, 2012

What Have I Wrought?

From the time they were old enough to play with Lego bricks without my having to check their stool for days after to make sure swallowed pieces were passed, my sons have received sets in celebration pretty much every holiday, birthday and special event.  They get so many, in fact, that they often cannot build them fast enough.  This time of year in particular, a few sets remain stacked in their boxes, waiting to be built.

When their Lego fascination was in its early stages, it was an absolute necessity that I build on their behalf.  Of course, I didn't mine this.  In fact, I looked as forward to their receiving Lego sets as they did because I knew the onus of construction would fall to my capable fingers.  The first time I awoke on a weekend to find that they had completed a small set on their own while I slept in, I was heartbroken.

But now, my boys and I have come to experience quite the opposite problem.  They are always eager to start a Lego set on their own, but the fire peters out.  They eventually ask me for help, then they ask me to continue building while they go attend to something else and before you know it, I have completed the set for them.  Knowing the depths of their father's addiction, they play me like a fiddle.

If the only foreseeable consequence here were my spending time building Lego sets, it would be a happy sacrifice on my part.  I would gladly forego paying bills, shoveling snow, eating or sleeping in order to see a set built to its intended result just so my sons could run around and play with it until so many parts have been irreparably removed that it becomes nothing more than spare pieces with which to free build.  Such is the circle of Lego life and my near religious acceptance of it.

My concern, however, is that this might be an indication of something greater.  If my sons can't manage to stay focused long enough to build an entire set, what might that say about their character?

To be sure, Lego is more than a toy.  One doesn't simply remove it from the box and begin playing.  Their is a creative process, a journey, a virtual pilgrimage if you will.  A child who is a prolific Lego junky shows signs of dedication and creativity (especially if they are creating their own masterpieces).  Appreciating the joy that truly is Lego takes intelligence (+5), will (+3), manual dexterity (+6) and a cloak of enhanced ability to postpone reward (which, last I checked, goes for around 800 gold pieces in the local bazaar).  These are most certainly values I want to promote in my sons.

Thus, over the past three sets, a gradual adjustment has been made in the way Lego building is done in my home.  After my son begged me to do so, I built only a portion of one set while they were in school and insisted he finish the rest with me.  The next set saw me refusing to build without them at least present to help.  On the third, I offered to assist only as a brick monkey (the one who fishes the pieces from the pile and hands them to the builder).  Currently, the Lego Dino sea plane is sitting half built on my dining room table until my son decides it is worth his time to finish.

As I walk by it several times each day, I realize that this may be a larger test of my will power than it is a test of their dedication.

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