The world has changed. The freedoms our ancestors so gallantly fought (and in some cases died) for have been given up in an act of unified compassion. It sounds monumental but for most of us the reality is we are just stuck at home. For some of us that is normal and we are merely a bit more stuck at home than usual. During the past three months I have been fortunate enough to be furloughed from work. This isn’t a problem for me, in fact it is a blessing. I now spend all morning with my children. Daddy’s school has a curriculum that leans heavily towards Lego and not so much phonics or maths.
Educating children seemed like an easy thing, but my children don’t want to listen. Proportional discipline is also a tricky thing, I found myself threatening to put my son on the naughty step for 6 hours if he touched a toy kangaroo again! But when the kids are screaming at each other (arguing over whether fish have legs or not) it is Lego to the Rescue. I have been fortunate enough that whenever their concentration wanes (usually by 10:30am) I can bring out the Lego and we are all busy until my wife takes over at lunchtime.
Lego not only distracts the children, it can be mildly educational. It entertains me and it allows us all to create our own imaginary worlds where Covid 19 doesn’t exist and minifigures can socialise at whatever distance they desire. They can take our freedom but they’ll never take our Lego.
I used to spend hours as a young child with my head dipped into a large plastic box, moving copious amounts of Lego around searching for that one piece. I’d see the piece I need, make a grab for it, but then suddenly it is lost in an avalanche of Lego. I’d start the search again only to realise it is fruitless. Somehow, even though I never organised my Lego back then, I always managed to find the piece I was looking for. Recently I thought the same would still apply, that I’d simply search through the box of Lego and find those pieces I needed.
Maybe that is still true, but now my tolerance is considerably lower than it once was. My stress is higher and, even during a national lock-down, my time is harder to come by.
I took a big box of Lego out of the loft, it contained a handful of Marvel sets I had broken down years before, thinking it would be easy to rebuild whenever I chose. My son pestered me with the instruction booklets, demanding one set then another. I snapped at him, ‘I’m building the Helicopter, I’ll get to spiderman’s cycle once I’ve finished this.’
Eventually I built the bat-cave and Joker’s mansion. It took a lot longer than I expected. It wasn’t long before my son had broken them down again, so this time I bagged them up. I put them into separate labelled bags.
I also built several of my daughters friends sets, this was more time consuming and infuriating. Rest assured, when she is done playing with them, I will put them into bags again. It might not be as free and bohemian as it once was, but it will certainly reduce my stress when we come to build the Heartlake Hospital again.
This leads me to a problem, how can my daughter learn to free build if I keep all her Lego bagged into separate sets? The answer is one thing I have long championed…. Job lots. I have a lot of 2nd hand Lego that I have collected over the years (see blog posts) and I can now bequeath it to her for free building. It might not be all the soft pastel colours of her friends sets, but her actual sets can remain bagged up and we can rebuild them without the hours of stress I have recently endured.
One particularly difficult morning the kids were losing interest in the Lego we had out, so I went looking for some of my older sets. I managed to pull some old sets out of the loft and brought a big box into the lounge to look through. We were all very pleased. Back in 2013 my wife bought me the Temple of Doom set. I never built it. I took the figures out and put the box in the loft. For years it sat there, unbuilt, forgotten, marooned in a dusty Lego graveyard. But these are unprecedented times and so I opened the box and built the set. As it hadn’t been fully broken down by the previous owner I was able to skip a few steps and save time on the build. I enjoyed it. It comes from 11 years ago and isn’t as complex as some of today’s sets. My daughter was excited, my son was destructive and I was deeply satisfied. I showed them video on you tube of the actual mine cart scene from Temple of Doom, my wife was disapproving.
I checked back on my figures and smiled at the memory. I actually gasped that Christmas when I opened the big present my wife had wrapped and saw such a cool set. Mostly I was overjoyed at getting the Mola Ram minifig, it was a bit of white whale for me. I was very pleased. In a previous blog I managed to get the mechanic minifig, but I’ve not quite collected the complete Indiana Jones set yet.
The other thing that I hadn’t realised up until now, is that it takes a surprisingly long time to put it all away. The sets we have made are piled up in my office (alas we don’t have enough shelf space to keep it all built) and the rest are broken down. I’m not sure how long we will remain in lockdown, but we may have to make more orders from Lego.com and almost certainly we need to get rid of something else that takes up valuable shelf space. Books maybe, who needs books, a kindle can hold 10000 of them. I wont be throwing out the boardgames, but the books can probably go….probably.