If the fiasco of the hairy, smoky Legos taught me anything, it’s that the next time I get that panicky feeling about needing to buy something for my kids, it’s time to do a heart check.
by K. Phillips
I’ve googled: “What happens if your kid doesn’t like Legos?” But even that wasn’t the peak of my Lego fears. I was convinced that my kids didn’t like Legos enough. Sure, they liked Legos. But did they like them enough? You know, enough to compete in the global economy and land them a career that could afford them fresh fruits and vegetables.
I’ve found that when I grasp onto an idol like this, God usually stands back and allows; perhaps just to see how far I’ll go.
On my way back from a walk one summer morning, I wandered into my neighbor’s garage sale, and lo and behold they were selling gallon Ziplock bags stuffed to the max with Legos for $7. I bolted home for my bank card, peeled into the nearest ATM for $40 in quick cash, and made a beeline for the wonder toy elixir.
Sure, there was visible animal hair in the ten Lego bags, and I am severely allergic to cats. But the bigger question was: How many bags should I buy? Six? Seven? I finally calmed down enough to remind myself that we had plenty of Legos, including sets from Christmas that were still in their boxes. I decided that I really only needed to buy two bags of hairy Legos in order to ensure that my kids would not turn out to be the type of kids who don’t like Legos. Whatever that means.
The whole thing turned out to be a fiasco. The Legos weren’t only covered in pet hair. I discovered all sorts of carpet fuzz, raisins, and Cheez-Its while soaking them in the dishpan. I sifted through the water with my hands, pulling out dozens of long strands of human hair. My golden calf was losing its sheen. After two hours of washing and a day to dry on the counter, the Legos still smelled like smoke.
They are up in our attic now because they stink. They also have asymmetrical pieces. It is not fun to build an airplane with only one wing, or— shudder—one wing from one set, and a completely different wing from another set. Plus, we don’t have room for these Legos, because we already had plenty before.
A couple of months later my son’s 1st grade class got a turn with the school’s small Lego boxes. He told me all about his creation and that I could come into class and see it the next morning. He proudly told me how he figured out how to make a ball out of some of the pieces. It was his little discovery of hidden potential, and others followed his lead.
The next morning he proudly pointed to where his creation was on top of a high bookshelf. It had a couple of mini figures in a little scene, that ball he was so proud of, and a few other details. I gave him a big hug. His creation was all him. No one else could have made it.
A couple of weeks later I went through our Legos and made little mini boxes for each kid with only a couple of handfuls of thoughtfully chosen Legos. Then they made a creation while I read them a story. They found freedom in being confined to their box. They didn’t complain about wanting more pieces. They just used what they had.
The hairy, smoky Lego fiasco made me realize that I was being ridiculous about Legos. The degree your child likes Legos is not some litmus test for a well-lived childhood. My kids like Legos well enough. I’m a little embarrassed I got so over-invested.
Now when I get that panicky feeling about buying something, I try to step back and see what is going on in my heart. I ask, What am hoping this will inoculate my child against? What am I afraid of?
When I want to buy another children’s Bible, I remind myself that collecting children’s Bibles is not a substitute for reading bible stories together. I also remind myself that force-feeding Bible stories is also not a substitute for unconditional love.
There is no toy or book that will turn your child into an artist, engineer, nature-lover, musician, athlete, saint, decent human being, or contributing citizen. Instead, there are those everyday moments to truly love, cherish, and accept our children as they are, in the family we are. God allows us to chase golden calves until we realize we are enough for our children.
K. Phillips enjoys spending time with her husband and two children in the Midwest.