Monday, March 19, 2012


In tiny boxes I try to contain them, little boys and Legos.

Order vs. Chaos.

Creativity vs. follow-the-stinking-plan.

I think that I am teaching them to be good stewards of the gifts that they were given and my blood pressure begins to rise when I see that astronauts from yesterday's secret missions never made it back to base-camp, but were instead wooed by the subtle ways of alien life forms. Their army of progeny (some located dangerously close to heater vents) have obviously been sent forth to take and colonize my home.

By force, if necessary.

I gather my boys and drill proper Lego etiquette:

Only at the table.
One set at a time.
Back in the appropriately labeled (So what if they can't read!?) container...

I hear my own voice and feel myself growing green, scaly skin and segmented sensory organs on my head.

I sound like an alien.

My boys would likely agree that Calvin and Hobbes never saw worse.

This is obviously more about me than it is about them.

I stop myself and then do the unthinkable--I ask them if they would like to combine their Legos into one container? Would it make it easier for them?

Their eyes light up like battery operated UFO's.

Perhaps I have been abducted, but it is obviously by a higher life form so I re-evaluate and craft myself a new set of guidelines, but this time they are just for me:

Am I giving my children ownership?

We like to see our children share at our home but they are also allowed to own their own things. We teach them that it if they would like to see/use/borrow something that belongs to their brother or sister, then the right thing to do is to ask first (otherwise it is stealing). If the answer is 'no' then we practice respecting that decision. Every once in a while I can tell that a given 'no' is more of a power-play by the owner, but I let the decision stand. In a case like this I might take them aside privately to get to the root of the issue and sometimes I remind them of instances where the other child has recently showed a kindness or shared their things. I do not try to manipulate. Often a simple conversation will help them re-consider their motives. I think that they share well because they feel safe and respected and as such don't feel the need to be hyper-protective of their things.

It also teaches them to set healthy boundaries and gives them ownership both over their belongings and their actions.

I crossed those boundaries in the situation above because I was not letting their toys be their own. I was acting more like a legalistic lender when they were not really mine in the first place.

I was not giving them room to explore, play, create, imagine…to think outside of the box.

You know, the kind things Legos were meant for? Ahem.

I was holding my kids to a higher standard than I was myself.

Am I making it easier or more difficult for them to do the right thing?

Of course I want to see my children show respect and care for their possessions, but I need to make it easier for them to succeed at this, not harder. Designing it so that the toys could not successfully be put away until all the sets were reunited was really, really just… well, I was not really thinking was I?

In most cases, simple is by far the better choice, even if label makers are one of the coolest inventions ever.

Am I providing them with a safe place to fail?

Even if I do have the easiest system/rules in the world, kids are kids. They will miss the mark just like we do.

I need to let it be so.

If they lose or break part of a set, say the wrong thing (there are SO many examples),  it is important to let them fail. It will help them define what things are important to them.

From now on I need to be willing to talk it over, show grace, and move on.

Any other suggestions? What kind of things do you do in your home to prevent yourself from turning frightening, scaly, and green?

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