In our previous home we had a Lego room. My kids were still relatively little and so I affected no pretense concerning who the room was actually for.
But I allowed them in and three new lovers of Lego slowly developed. Because this was a whole room devoted to the ubiquitous plastic bricks, we just pooled the lot. My old knights and space Lego, their new- fangled ‘girly’ and ‘retro’ Lego, it was all heaped together and played with equally. Once we moved to our new house with *gasp* no Lego room, the Lego defaulted to my eldest’s room and we continued with our lives.
But the Lego-bug had bitten my younger daughters and they kept going into the Lego box to acquire and squirrel away pieces from their sister, who really thought that possession meant ownership. It got so bad that every container in their rooms would contain a piece or two, and the eldest started banning her sisters from entering her room.
In my mind, a fear started growing that we would never be able to rebuild any of the sets should I allow this to continue, and I felt that sharing out the Lego fairly couldn’t happen until all the sets had been grouped and returned to their rightful owners intact.
Cue the craziest project I have yet to imagine. I sat my family down and explained the problem with the Lego. They all agreed. I then explained my solution. They all looked worried and horrified by degrees. We were going to empty out all the Lego and rebuild every single set according to the manuals.
With 62 pieces of Lego existing for every man, woman and child on the planet, it’s not hard to see how these humble plastic blocks are worth more than the sum of their parts.
Lego can be an incredible emotive toy, and I don’t just mean when you stand on them. As I type, it’s week four of the project and we have learned quite a lot about ourselves and each other.
When I described the project to a friend she listened to my passionate pleas for order and perfection and then carefully suggested that once it was all done, I should let them smash it all up again to remove the stigma I would be creating around ideas like ‘completed’ and ‘according to the manual’.
again was alarming — I had imagined a cabinet of completed pieces, never to be undone — but it grew on me (a little). Not so much on my other adult building partner-in-crime. He almost went on strike when the idea was suggested that all his building would be summarily undone.
He and I found that we tackle projects very differently, but that somehow our systems are symbiotic. My eldest distanced herself from the project from the start. It was impossible, exhausting work to separate all the pieces, sometimes searching for a single piece for an hour only to find it mangled by the dog under the table when you got up to stretch your legs. She said she would get involved again in the rebuilding once all the sets were separated.
The youngest ‘helped’ by free building on the side of our project, often using the very pieces we were looking for, and the middle child went around the whole house finding all the errant pieces like some kind of Lego greyhound.
As I type, about 65% of the project is completed. Sets are built, Ziplocs are ready to contain them once we have (carefully and in a contained manner) broken them up again and I have realised that Lego has been a perfect metaphor for the things I love.
No matter how much I value and cherish my family, they are their own people with their own ways of doing things. They have their own ideas and will live their own lives.
I can help them take stock and reorganise themselves according to my values every once in a while, but they will all react differently and slowly return to their natural centres once I am done.
I cannot stem the tide of their growth and development nor would I want to, but every once in a while I can gently pack them up and feel like I have a tiny bit of control over the beauty and energy my husband and I created and had to let loose into the world.
Lego will be my daily reminder that magic resides in the incomplete and imperfect. I will finish this project because I have learned so much already that to stop now seems a pity. But as for how it will go after that, who knows?
I have as much chance of controlling our future as I do of maintaining order over our Lego collection.
From all of us to all of you may your Chanukah be filled with light and laughter and may your path into 2017 be free of rogue Lego.
LEGO makes 306 million (tiny) tyres a year — more than any other ‘tyre’ manufacturer.