Saturday, October 20, 2012

In need of a Lego Intervention: Confessions of a consumerist Mama


My boys, age 6.5 and 9.75 are Lego ADDICTS.  Nothing pleases them more than Lego, especially new Lego - they 'jones' for Lego all day long.  They take it to school hidden in pockets, they talk Lego with every friend, they have Lego playdates, Lego birthday parties, they 'build' as soon as their eyes open in the morning, and again as soon as they walk in the door from school or gymnastics, and they do not ever want to stop building.  Ever. Getting the mess cleaned up before bed is our family's biggest hassle, and inevitably leads to yelling.  Yelling at Lego addicts to put down the bricks seems about the only way to pierce through the Lego haze that clouds their brains.  It is not the bedtime routine I had hoped for, to say the least.



And it's my fault.  I am their dealer.  I got them hooked, it's my fault there are Legos underfoot all over our house, and it's my fault (ok, my husband's fault too, he has brought Lego into our house as well, and is a card carrying 'Lego Club Member' for the 'deals' at our mall's Lego store).  Many beautiful and expensive Lego sets later, there is a lot of the stuff in our house.  So I have tried to help contain the chaos with bins.  I have bought bins that stack and bins that slide, and shelves, and more bins, bins small, bins tall, and one that sorts bits all on it's own.  And boxes.  And boxes just for the instruction booklets. (As if we will be building those sets again, as if we could ever find every specialized piece at the same time.)  Plus shelves, and more shelves to display the brittle completed sets.   I have bought 'rare' pieces off eBay for them.  I have bought discontinued sets for small fortunes.  I have used Lego as bribe, reward, and punishment. It's all they want, it's alI they do. I am sick and tired of Lego.

I am tired of being mad about the Lego, that I bought, that they adore.  I'm tired of being angry that they are playing extra messily again.  I do not like to see constructions of weaponry, rolling/flying tanks with guns and swiveling turrets, no matter how original and 'cool' they are.  (Ppfew ppfew pppfffffeeeeew! go the little boys mouthing shooting noises).  Whatever happened to poor Thomas the Tank engine and those beautiful elaborately winding track mazes my boys used to build?  

I know, they are growing up, and Thomas and trains seem juvenile to them now, BUT.
If I dare post a pic of the boys' room, you would see it's not just Lego, I have also bought Playmobil and Shleich and Knex and gosh, everything and too much of it all.  All to try and engage them, interest them, 'make them happy'.  But they're not happy, not for long.  Let me add, we have so much, not because we can afford it, but because I have spent every penny I could.  An innocent lost in the woods of major marketing firms and promotional campaigns. Yup. Sure. I'd love to blame someone else - it's all their fault! Nah, I know, I did it to us. 
The sad, sorry state of the train table.

But then I had a BIG REALIZATION the other day.
Our kids' fingers are HUNGRY.  Their brains are bored.  (And the toy companies know this.)

If kids build Lego all day, it's because they want to create, to build, to MAKE something COOL and revel in the completed thing that only exists because they made it so.  And Lego has been provided to them.  It was an 'easy' and 'safe' consumerist solution for filling their obvious need.  (Safer than say, sending them out with an axe into the woods, as if we had woods around to send them out into.)

So I bought Lego.  It made them happy?  I can buy more!  And they want more?  Ok I'll buy more.  And more?  Something is unfulfilled in them, some need that is not being met because they never stop wanting MORE. 

Ah-HA!
If I understand they have an unmet need, if I understand that my sons' fingers are hungry, then I can teach them to braid, knit, crochet, weave, cut, sew, carve, paint, sculpt, mix, plant, sow, harvest, OH MY GOSH!!! All these things they have not yet or hardly ever done! The possibilities! 
Maybe the solution for a Lego addiction isn't something I can purchase online or in a store!  

Yesterday I gave DS9.75 a block of Ivory soap and a paring knife and he sat, over a wastebasket, and carved his first carving. A fish.  he made a very small fish and a very big mound of soap flakes.  He was so happy and absorbed.  

Today, he wants to do it again.  

My children need me to be more mindful.  I need me to be more mindful.  I need to intervene.  I cannot be their Lego dealer anymore, I need to be their smart, capable, mindful Mother who teaches them skills and abilities beyond snapping and unsnapping little plastic bricks together.  

I resolve to keep their fingers busy.  I resolve to stop buying Lego.
(Oh, that hurt.  Christmas is coming.  I was going to buy them some of the monster sets.  Am I addicted too to the 'quick fix' consumerism provides?  I know I am.  Oh help me.)

I resolve not to buy one more organizational 'tool' or bin, but to use what we already have and put all the Lego in the attic for a 'cold turkey' detox.  It's going to hurt, but hopefully not too bad, if I can provide enough interesting other things to do...
I'm open for ideas, people!

I feel the glimmer of a happier horizon.  

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I was brought here because of the post below about the tidoo vs calin doll for my 18 month old daughter for an Easter gift. I love this post. So well written. I feel the same way! I just have the one daughter, but Fisher Price little people are my addiction. I always feel like she just needs one more set. You're exactly right, too many toys are too big a distraction. I think the bar soap idea is genius and I hope your plan to engage your boys in different ways worked for you. I'd love to see an update :)

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Mamazakka is Mommy blogger Autumn Sousanis; also-known-as Autumn Dunbar; and also-known-as "Mama" to six little ones, ages 9, 7.5, 5, 3.5 2 and a 3 month old! :) Busy,yes. A graduate of C.C.S. (Center for Creative Studies, School of Art and Design in Detroit) with my bachelor's degree in Fine Arts, I have finally found my calling as 'Mamazakka', maker of everything and anything that might improve your home, life and outlook. :) It's my goal to create things that truly meet Wikipedia's definition for 'zakka'; (here's an excerpt)..."cute, corny, kitschy is not enough. To qualify, a product must be attractive, sensitive and laden with subtext." Oh yeah! You betcha! Well, that's my goal, anyhow! I'm also known as an over-user of exclamation marks(!) and parentheses (can't help it) though I do try to keep my smileys to a minimum :)