- Academic Departments
- Et al. Journal
- Volume VI: In My Own Words 2016/2017
- Finding Time to Play
Finding Time to Play
Most parents know that they're supposed to find quality time to do things with their kids while they are young; it's an unfortunate truth that when my two oldest children were small, I was so busy working to keep them fed, clothed and housed, that I didn't have much time, and certainly not enough energy to do "things" with them. Now, my oldest daughter is 27 and has children of her own, and my son is 23. I wish I had spent more time making memories with them (although I am not sure how we would have lived had I not worked as hard as I did). I have a second chance at parenting with my six year old daughter Abigail, and I'm going to make the most of it, even if it kills me. Abby loves to play with her dollhouse and make the dolls talk to each other. I really hate playing with toys and making them talk to each other, so in an attempt to distract her from her dollhouse, I have bought her countless Lego sets in the last few years, and we build those together. We get quality time together, and I don't have to make dolls talk to each other about nothing.
It was the week after Christmas, and Abby was all mine. After celebrating Christmas at home on Christmas Eve, she had been whisked away to spend the week at her dad's house without getting to play with any of her new toys. There was a stack of new Lego sets waiting for Abby and me to build and play with, and she couldn't wait to put the new Lego Friend's Amusement Park Roller Coaster set together when she got home. I had taken a few days off work so that I could spend some quality time with her while she was on holiday break from school, and by the third day off, I felt like we'd been building non-stop – we had finished the Bumper Car set and the Hot Dog Van, and most of the Roller Coaster set.
Lego divides their sets into bags to make it easier for kids to build the sets in manageable sections. The Lego sets that we typically built had 4-5 bags on average, and around 500 pieces or less, but the Roller Coaster set had a daunting 8 bags with 1124 pieces; the instruction booklet is massive. This set was recommended for 8-12 year olds, so there was no question that it was going to be a challenge, but Abby and I were Lego pros, and we were up for it.
We had gotten most of the Amusement Park set built the previous day. The roller coaster, with its miniature train of four carriages that could carry the Friends characters Emma, Andrea, Matthew and Naya around the ride, the drop tower, popcorn cart, ticket booth and the frame of the Ferris wheel, were carefully laid out on the activity table in the living room. I'd had to promise Abby that we'd finish up the last of it as soon as we woke up in order to get her to bed the night before.
Abby ran in to wake me before the sun was up. She's always been an early riser. "Mommy, you promised we could finish the Ferris wheel this morning..." I heard her little voice say. "Abs, it isn't even light yet", I replied, in a sleepy voice.
I knew I wasn't going to get back to sleep now that she'd awakened me. She came by being an early bird honestly.
I rolled out of bed, still half asleep and headed for the bathroom, "Abby, did you go to the bathroom yet?" I asked her. She hated taking the time to use the bathroom, and occasionally found herself nearly wetting her pants because she couldn't be bothered to go before it was urgent. "Mommy...", she said in her stubborn, I-don't-want-to voice. "Go, and I'll meet you out there in a few minutes" I replied, hoping that this would buy me a few minutes to brush my teeth and try to wake up.
She was back only a minute later, still in her Frozen pajamas, bouncing up and down in her impatience to get started. Her blue eyes shone with excitement at the prospect of completing the park and filling it with all her Lego Friend's characters. "Come on, mommy." She said, zipping back into the living room and sitting on the floor by her activity table. I stumbled out to the kitchen and turned the Keurig on, hoping that the sharp smell of coffee and the jolt of caffeine would finish the job of waking me up that the obnoxiously minty tasting toothpaste had started. Coffee in hand, I grabbed a yellow Little Tikes kiddie chair and sat down to Abby's right, ready to complete the project, and thinking how much I would rather be sleeping, checking Facebook, reading a book or looking for something to watch on Hulu.... Anything relaxing, but not building this darn Lego set so freaking early in the day. I try to make a conscious effort not to have my phone in my hand when we're building things, because I know all too well how quickly she's going to grow up; she'll be Cassie and Jason's age before I know it, and I will have missed the chance to make these memories for both of us. So I sit in the chair that makes my knees hurt (when did my knees start hurting?) and focus on the task at hand: the last little bit of this crazy, multi-set project that I have purchased for her and consigned myself to working on.
We open bag number 7; this is, by far, the biggest set we've undertaken. We both know our jobs; I find the pieces that are noted at the top left of the pages, and she puts them together, step by step. This bag has the pieces to build three lavender and yellow gondolas for the Ferris wheel. I cheat and set aside the necessary pieces in three piles, while she meticulously follows the directions for the first one. She gets the first one together and I push one of the other piles towards her, and make quick work of putting the third one together while she works on hers.
"Mom," she says, "I'm supposed to put it together".
"Abs," I reply, "I like to build things out of Lego too, you shouldn't be the only one getting to work on it".
"Okay" she said. Bag 7 is done and we're on to bag 8. Abby opens it by herself, as she has done with most of the Lego bags in the sets she got for Christmas, and I am reminded of why I'm sitting in this too-small chair, with my aching knees, without my phone, at an ungodly hour on my day off. My baby, my last child, with her warm kisses and big blue eyes that are entirely too wise for her years, is growing up fast, and she will remember that I sat here with her, building things out of Lego. She will remember that this is our thing that we did together when she was small.
As she dumps the contents of bag 8 onto her table, and the tiny pieces scatter over the green surface, I turn the page, and start looking for the pieces that she needs to build the last three gondolas. "Look Abs, these are blue and purple. Which ones do you like better: these, or the other ones we built?" I ask her. "I like these, mommy, because they're blue." she responds. I still sort the pieces into three piles for efficiency's sake, and I build one of the gondolas, because my genuine love of Lego is what's made me buy her all these sets in the first place. We put the gondolas on the Ferris wheel and fill them with little Lego people. The Amusement park is complete and we've built more memories that will last longer than the Lego set itself.