e have hit the “Lego-stage” in our household… with a vengeance. Ask the kids what the big-ticket items are on their birthday/Xmas wish lists and they’ll tell you “LEGOS!!” It started out innocently enough with the smallest little set, Gandalf riding on his little horse-drawn carriage from The Lord Of The Rings. Who would have known that was the gateway drug that would turn my children into full-on Lego crack-heads? In only a few months’ time we have gone from one little Gandalf set to shelves overflowing with Technicolor bricks, organizers filled to the brim with last week’s epic creative marathons, and a floor littered with choking hazards in every corner (Episode VI always manages to find the ones we miss).
The truth is I love it. Everything about Legos (except the price) is good. The beneficial lessons a kid learns from a healthy Lego-lifestyle come on so many levels. There’s the manual dexterity, the 3D spatial reasoning, delayed gratification, developing focus, cause-and-effect relationships, organizational skills, following instructions, math skills “What step are we on now, son?”
“Nope. Try again.”
“Right! And what comes after 79?”
And if you’re really doing it right, there’s the incredible quality time you get to spend with your children.
Recently I indulged myself, and purchased over Ebay (‘cause there was no way I was going to spend the $400 retail) the penultimate Lego set currently on the market, with the intention of slowly working it through with my son (and daughter, if she wanted). At more than 3000 pieces and more than 49 inches in length (longer than my son) the Lego Star Wars Super Star Destroyer is currently the most involved, intricate, high-level Lego set you can buy. Given the fact that Lego suggests it is for ages 16+, obviously a project like this is beyond the scope of a 4-year-old. But after he tore through all his Xmas Legos in less than a week like Dustin Hoffman counting toothpicks, I knew (under my guidance) he was ready for a project like this.
I told the kids about the project, got ‘em all amped up by showing it to them on the internet, and then waited for the package to arrive.
I managed to get the on Ebay for ½ the retail price, with the knowledge that it was missing at least one bag of bricks (7 total steps, each ranging from 3-5 bags of 150 pieces). I took a calculated gamble, knowing that I could use Lego’s brickfinder site to fill in whatever blanks came up. If worst came to worst and we couldn’t finish the project, I bought the kids 3000+ bricks to indulge their creative impulses as their hearts saw fit. I’m glad to say we made it all the way through, with only two hiatuses to order missing parts (spent more shipping the parts than I did on the parts themselves).
I made an effort to make sure that Episode IV was invited to participate as much as she wanted. She dropped in here and there to help, but she isn’t the Star Wars nut that my son and I are. She’d rather spend all that time drawing pictures and writing stories.
Of course Episode IV caught on pretty quick that I was taking pictures after every completed step. She isn’t one to miss a photobomb opportunity. After this shot she said “Make sure you put this one on your blog, Daddy.”
Look at the incredible detail here. Now imagine clumsy little 4-year-old fingers getting all those tiny little pieces in just the right place. When I launched this project I wanted to make sure that the kids did as much of the work as possible, with my supervision of course. For my son this was as much a lesson in patience as it was in manual dexterity. The thrill for me was watching his light-speed development. At step 1 he would ask “Daddy, can you help me with this?” By step 5 he was pushing me away saying “No don’t help me, Daddy. I can do this.”
Given the fact that the Chief Engineer of this project was a 4-year-old, the entire effort stretched out across a couple months. If he was 16+ it would be easy to imagine a 14-hour marathon fueled by Red Bull (horrible for your teeth) and pizza. But at this age there’s an attention-span factor. He’s 4 years old. We’re lucky if he gets 1 of two socks on by himself before “Oh look, something shiny.” But where this project was concerned he and I regularly sat down for a solid hour, uninterrupted. Try go get a 4-year-old to focus on ANYTHING for a solid hour. The experts will tell you it’s impossible. Apparently all it takes is a Lego set.
But the real benefit of this project, more than the developmental skills he grew, was the priceless father/son time. We must have spent 20 hours out in the garage on this thing, just *BEING* together -sharing space, talking, working together. When people say “quality time”, this is what they’re talking about. When we stated I would put my iPhone up on the shelf and stream NPR just to have some semi-intellectual background noise. But when the broadcast turned to Afghanistan I switched over to Pandora. During all those hours we spent alone together in the garage, we spent a good portion talking about The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Steve Miller Band, Credence Clearwater Revival and 80’s hair bands. Those things are arguably just as important to his education as current events in Afghanistan, and much more age-appropriate.
There came the day we knew we were going to finish. We’d spent a good portion of Friday afternoon leading up to it, and Episode V was up bright and early on Saturday morning peeking through our bedroom door at 6:30am “Daddy? It’s time to finish the Super Star Destroyer.” So we traipsed out to the garage in our pajamas to put the finishing touches on our epic project. I made sure there was plenty of ceremony, taking a picture of him placing the last piece. We all celebrated for breakfast with UnDorkMommy’s amazing special aebleskivers. We then hoisted the completed project up on a shelf in the garage specifically built to house it and the Lego Star Wars Xwing, Ywing and Millennium Falcon that came before, where it proudly sits today.
Oh, and lest you think that Legos are a boys-only sport in our house, let me put that notion to rest. Title-9 is in full-effect in the DorkDaddy household. The only difference between Episode V’s Lego experience and Episode IV’s is that Episode IV is a 7-year-old girl.
She can do it all by herself, thankyouverymuch.