Monthly Archives: May 2016

The grands

Grandparents. The word alone should conjure up memories in anyone’s minds eye of silver haired smiles, of being spoilt or comforted, of wrinkles and spots and grey hair, of quiet afternoons and the tic toc steadiness of time spent with them.

I have a number of clear memories of my maternal grandfather. He was an avid lawn bowler. Quite a good one at that. I remember some afternoons spent leaping through hedges at the Sturrock Park Bowling Club where both he and my grandmother (Grannypie) played. His picture was on the wall at the club, above the big doors if memory serves. I remember the parking lot for the club being on the opposite side of a railway and I, for whatever reason, decided one day I wasn’t going to cross the bridge over the tracks. I’d been to the bowling club before and since but on that day I remember him having to try convince me that the trains really weren’t going to run over me. I remember he was a quiet man, a gentleman and he loved to wear hats. He passed away when I was quite young after a long illness.

My paternal grandfather was a real family man that loved a big party. He worked well into his retirement years and I remember his love of animals (dogs in particular) and his parrot (Popeye). He had four boys with my father being the second youngest and then thirteen grandchildren. Yes, thirteen and I was the youngest. He drove a red beetle and when that little car made its way into our neighborhood, every dog for four blocks around would make a beeline for our house so that they could claim their little treat which he always seemed to have handy. As I cast my mind back, many of the memories I have of Grandpa were at family gatherings which he’d orchestrated. Actually, my memories of him seem to jump from one family party to the next at one of my uncle’s homes or ours. I remember a few holidays he took with my grandmother (Nanna) where my father was tasked with caring for Popeye the parrot. Popeye, by the way, grew up in a home of four boys that loved Elvis and as such was a big fan of 50’s music and of ‘the king’ in particular. He absolutely adored my Grandpa. He’d pine when he was away and literally do loops on his perch when he came home. Grandpa also passed away when I was quite young after a brief illness.

My Nanna was a free spirit, not in the new age sense but rather in the fact that she seemed to rediscover her youthful exuberance long after most grandparents would be zimmer-framing from the kitchen to the lounge. She actually stayed in her own apartment in Braamfontein and would zip around the country on a whim to visit a casino without even having to ask anyone to so much as give her a lift. Her disappearances always caused great concern among my father and uncles. She was loving and fun and I get the sense that had she been alive when Facebook started, she’d definitely have had a page with great stories on it. She’d probably have had a Twitter handle too and I expect she’d have had a huge following of people admiring a granny with such a young heart. I was on holiday when she passed away.

My Grannypie, so named by my sister, was a Dame. She really was. She was one of those people who would pat the seat next to her to indicate you should sit down to speak to her. Very proper. Very steady. She loved to listen to the radio. She had a great sense of humor and she almost closed her eyes when she smiled. She lived with us for the last years of her life and she had one drink a day which was a tot of Gilby’s gin, a tot of lime, two blocks of ice and water in a short tumbler glass. I made one for her almost every day before I left home and eventually spread my wings. At my 21st birthday party, her and her two sisters all managed to make several trips to the gents restrooms, completely in error of course. None of them questioned the row of urinals or the stick man on the door. Much mirth followed when it was finally explained to them what they’d been doing that day. My Grannypie lived a full life and passed away quietly at my family home. I arrived a day late.

My paternal Grandparents were often backups when I was not well enough to go to school as a pup. I have memories of doing ’rounds’ with my Grandfather in his building in Johannesburg where he was the caretaker. They lived on the top floor and going there was always a treat. I’m pretty sure I slowed him down on those days but he never once made me feel like I was a burden. I do remember him having to take a nap on the odd occasion that I was visiting in order to recharge though.

For a few years after I learnt how to drive I would fetch my grandmothers on a Sunday morning and bring them home for lunch. They were never back seat drivers but my mother always cautioned me to drive sedately with them, though I’m not sure I always did. All of my Grandparents played a role in my life and all of them have special nooks in my mind where I can easily reach them.

I wasn’t there when any of them passed away so I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Each of them just disappeared one day and life sort of moved on without them. Everything pretty much the same, just a little emptier. So I encourage those among you who have grandparents to take time out to sit next to them, to listen to their stories. Today. Now.

I guess what I’m trying to say, in a very roundabout sort of way, is that I’m almost 43 years old and I still miss my grandparents.

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The good boy

In recent months, the behavior of the little guy has been, shall we say, less than impeccable. He’s a spirited, willful, beautiful, stubborn little imp and naturally, from time to time we have cause to be at odds with him. When this happens, he reacts by digging in his heals, rejecting our reality and substituting it with his own.

In other words, he misbehaves.

But that’s ok, I get it. He’s the smallest human in the house and he must feel a little passed over occasionally. We make many more decisions for him than for his big brother and sometimes his big brother bosses him around a bit as well. It is a difficult thing being the smallest in a group. Just ask the broken wax crayon in the box or the Escape key on a keyboard (UNIX guys will understand).

So, we find ourselves having to make deals with him in order to get him to conform. We set goals for him to achieve so that we can reward him when they are met and then indirectly boost his self esteem and help him carve out his place in the ‘world’ (his school and our house).

Some time back he went through a vampire stage where he seemed to want to resolve all of his conflicts with a bite. This was obviously not ideal given that the recipients of the bite ranged from school friends, to his sibling and AuPair and sometimes even to us if he was feeling particularly set upon. I had visions of disgruntled parents knocking on my door with their bitten children in tow – complete with pitchforks and garlic and revenge aplenty. I eventually resorted to drastic action and took a most prized possession away from him, his Lego Naboo Starfighter.

At the time I said this was a permanent move and that I was going to give it to a children’s home and really, I’d had every intention of following through with that plan for the toy. If I’m honest though, I’ll admit that the punishment was a little severe for our little guy. So I hung onto the toy instead, hiding it away in a cupboard. I didn’t tell him that though.

He was, in a word, heartbroken by this sanction and counter intuitively, it actually initially caused more poor behavior choices on his part. But then some time passed and things seemed to get better. Until one day he drew me aside to have a serious talk with me about his toy.

Where was it? Had I really given it away? Was there any possibility at all of getting it back from the abyss? Daddy?

He’d obviously been thinking about it and was now wondering if there was some way in which he could redeem himself. It was such a sweet little moment with him. He wasn’t demanding it from me. He wasn’t acting entitled or spoilt. He was just asking me if the toy was still within my power to return to him.

I simply couldn’t refuse his heartfelt little petition and so I said that I could actually get it back for him, but it meant that he’d need to commit to achieving a few goals. I think it’s fair to say that at that point, he would probably have agreed to just about anything. I toyed with the idea of a contract like this for a while…

Dad. 

I will never, under any circumstance, ride a motorcycle. I’ll willingly eat broccoli with every meal from now until the end of all things. I promise I won’t ever injest in any way anything made by a chemist in a garage or in a plantation in South America and I will never have cause to call you from a police station. 

Your loving little Imp.

In the end I settled for two consecutive weeks of stellar behavior involving the three pillars of conformity. No hurting of anyone. No breaking of things belonging to anyone and listening to people in authority. This then was a formal, verbal contract between a parent and a child. We even shook on it.

It’s been a little over a month now since our agreement came into effect and the target date has shifted out a few times. This is primarily due to a few lapses in concentration and judgement on his part but also due in part to some environmental factors outside of his control.

But now I’m on the bubble. You see, all I want to do is get the bloody toy back to him before he decides he no longer wants it. He may just decide that the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze. If that happens, the entire plan is doomed. I’ll have about as much leverage with him as a builder trying to shift a boulder with a piece of cooked spaghetti.

So be a good boy…boy.


The thumbs 

The halflings have both adopted a new yardstick of approval. Gone are the vigorous head nods accompanied by ‘Yes’ or ‘Yay’ and the brain rattling head shakes said in concert with ‘No’ or ‘Yuck’ (Nay).

These days the little pups pass judgement on things in their lives in a much more deliberate, expressive and endearing manner. They’re employing a strange little take on the well known thumbs-up or thumbs-down gesture. They’ve personalised it too in that they use both hands and drum up a little fanfare for it by waving their closed fists in the air for a few seconds while they consider their verdict.

Then all at once they produce an emphatic result, which we as parents are obliged to respect. It is after all a well considered verdict, not just an involuntary negative reaction to a piece of broccoli teetering on the edge of a fork. It is also often elucidated in great detail just in case we might have forgotten what the signs mean.

The taxonomy of the thumbs are as follows; two thumbs up for things that are super duper great, two thumbs down for things that, to put it quite bluntly, suck in a big or even small way. There are also blended results where we have one thumb up and one thumb down or indeed one or both thumbs to the side. The definition for this non-committal gesture varies from day to day but usually it means they’re hedging their bets.

Ultimately though, no matter what the result, there is always a built in, unvoiced disclaimer which reads something similar to the following:

I’ve eaten the raw carrot you offered me in order to appease you. The sign I gave the carrot is favorable in this instance but by no means do I want to give you the impression that we’ve now set a precedent for carrot eating. This sign is valid for today and today only. Be advised then that the same, or better, result is not guaranteed in the future.

It must he said that their thumbs are used primarily as a classification system for food. Specifically for new foods we’re trying out on them. But I have witnessed it used to rate any number of things. Once it was used to describe a family outing on a lazy Sunday afternoon – which got four emphatic thumbs-up (see tobogganing).

I’m also pretty sure I’ve been given a silent, concealed thumbs-down on the odd occasion when I’ve switched off the television mid Miles from Tomorrow for the inevitable bed time. My boys know better than to rate my performance as a parent to my face. I’m not raising fools. But I’m sure they’re judging me in those moments and secretly plotting to commit me to a subpar retirement home one day.

I’m pretty confident too that at some point in the future, the digit used for rating me as a parent might be switched from the thumb to another expressive finger.


The trouble with the trouble

My children seem to go through phases. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there’s a lunar effect at work here, but certainly there may be something in that.

We seem to have smooth periods of bliss where really, one would be hard pressed to find anything to even improve on, let alone fix. Our family glides through these periods like a greased bum on a playground slide without so much as a hiccup or stutter. Life then is easy and the days pass by so fleetingly it’s sometimes hard to take it all in.

We also have rough periods where we live as smoothly as a sumo wrestler dancing in stilettos on a corrugated iron roof. We get through these days only because the earth spins and time passes. Life then is taxing and the days grind by ever so slowly like sloths wading through frozen molasses – so much so that it’s sometimes hard to lift the zimmer frame and take another step.

Sometimes you can have days that flipflop between both states. Actually, you can have hours or even minutes that do the same. Times where the little imps plant kisses on your cheek and times where they try to wipe a freshly picked booger on your shirt.

The little guy has had a few bumpy days in a row lately. So the vicious circle of indignation begins where we reprimand him for poor behavior choices and this sparks ‘grumpyfication’ which in turn drives more poor behavior choices. Repeat ad nauseam.

Sometimes we can get through to him and break the cycle early, other times he digs a hole of trouble so deep it seems he’ll never get out of all the punishment debt he’s in. That’s the trouble with the trouble, it’s like debt. Debt that’s compounding. It’s not great for a little guy that simply can’t make the payments anymore.

So, every now and again we have to bail him out, by clearing all his debt if he does something worthy of a reward – even if it’s something small. We do this so he can start fresh again, be clean, in the black. On his scale, at four years old, it’s still quite an easy thing to do. I’m hoping that as he gets older there will be less and less call to have to do this.

Perhaps one day soon he’ll be able to manage his own debt.

Life is amazing and then it’s awful and then it’s amazing again and in between the amazing and the awful its ordinary and mundane and routine…
(L.R Knost).


The dog arrival

Our new family member has finally arrived. We have been looking for someone like her for quite some time now and finally the stars all aligned ‘just so’ in order for her to fall into our laps.

My wife has been actively scouring the animal shelter web sites, trawling through classified ads and referrals and the like searching for that one special creature that would fit our family like a lycra batman suit on a fat toddler.

Then my wife spotted an advert online for a puppy, a Basset Hound as it turns out and it was all set in motion. She contacted the seller on the way to work in the car while I drove. She then proceeded to have a fifteen minute conversation with the seller, subjecting her to a rigorous q&a session in order to determine her legitimacy. We wanted to try make certain we weren’t supporting a horrible puppy mill or an unscrupulous breeder.

By the end of that call, my wife was satisfied the seller was on the up and up and I was actually sympathetically sweating with anxiety on behalf of the seller, just having been a spectator to the questions that were asked. I imagine the seller was probably fanning her underarms to cool down after the call too. I have no doubt at all now that my wife could grill a suspect in a crime into confessing whether they’d actually done something wrong or not. 

Later a deal was made and we collected her on the way home from the office. She was wrapped in a brand new green fleece blanket and cocooned her in her new mommy’s arms for the drive home. She was so good, only emitting a few little squeaks here and there but otherwise content to be held while her wet ears were scratched (more on that in a moment).

When we got home, the halflings were at their grandparents so we could acclimate her to her new surroundings in relative peace and quiet and here we got our first real good look at her…

She has short, stumpy little legs and big droopy ears hanging pretty much all the way down to the floor which means her ears also fall into whichever water bowl she’s drinking out of. Ditto for the pronutro she eats. Hence the wet ears. She has a few soft, brown markings on an otherwise white body, one mostly white ear, one mostly brown ear and a little brown spot on top of her head, centermast. She has long toenails which produce a clickety sound as she moves around the house on the hard floors. She also has that universal ‘puppy’ expression on her face which is all at once disarming, sweet and a little worried or sad looking.

In short, she’s beautiful.

The halflings were completely surprised. When they walked in and saw her, the disbelief mixed with delight was only bearly contained as they tried to keep their voices down (the puppy was asleep on my lap). They asked, several times, if she really was ours and if we really could keep her.

And so, we spent that first night watching her bound across the lawn in uncoordinated little leaps and trying to navigate up and down our three small stairs. We must have planted a hundred kisses on her head.

It’s safe to say then that we’re all in love. I love the fact that her ears are always wet and that she smells like pronutro. I love that she trips over those very same ears when she changes direction quickly and can’t avoid stepping on them. I love that she will take any opportunity to snuggle up against us, falling asleep on an unguarded foot or unoccupied lap at the drop of a hat. In short, she has wrapped her cool, flappy ears around us and we’re going to stay there.

Welcome home Bindi.


The footballer

The big guy has recently taken up soccer at a local club. He’s not brilliant at it if I’m honest, but he has big smile all over his face when he’s playing and ultimately that’s all that really matters. He’s very proud to be a part of the team and every now and again he manages to get his boot to the ball which immediately produces a euphoric cloud that hangs around him all day long.

When he turned old enough to join the league, he was bursting with excitement at the idea of getting a soccer kit. With my boys everything starts with the uniform. You want them to do PlayBall, well then you’ve got to get a ‘Sporty the PlayBall mascot’ shirt. You want them to learn Karate, you need to get a karategi. Soccer? Well then we’ll have some Boots if you please. The list goes on.

To me, it seems only fair that we kit them out. It is, after all, asking quite a bit of a child to commit to a sport or discipline of some sort and as such, we need to play our part and equip them like professionals. I think it’s fair to say that the effort they put in is no less marked than what a professional footballer would serve up, relatively speaking.

Of course it could also be said that I’m just a little OCD and as such can’t abide the disorder of a child at Karate school wearing different clothes to everyone else. Ditto for soccer.

So the big guy had a shopping day out with his grandad, who’s a huge soccer fan. They bought boots, shin pads, shirts and socks. When he got home he was literally gleaming with pride. The fact that he didn’t have club shorts yet didn’t phase him at all. I think he wore underpants that first night around the house along with the rest of the new kit.

And then we had to have the talk.

This was where I explained to him that despite the fact he was clearly destined to be a soccer superstar somewhere on the Hulk or perhaps Thor level, he was at the present time still a regular boy and not in fact in charge of things when he was on the field. The coach was. I must confess, this revelation came as somewhat of a shock to our boy and there was a dumbstruck silence while the words sunk in. It had evidently not occurred to him that there would be someone other than him running things on the field.

By way of explanation, accepting this sort of reality check has always been a growth area for him. He’s always managed to appoint himself into a supervisory role in any social gathering or activity he’s been involved in. Which is a another way of saying he likes to be in charge. He begrudgingly concedes that his teacher is in charge in the classroom and his parents are in charge everywhere else.

Which is why we were really motivated to have him join the club in the first place. We saw it as the perfect opportunity to help him learn to assimilate into a group, to accept that he’s not always going to be in charge of things and will in all probability have to take instruction from at least one person in some role or another, in every situation in his life.

Unless of course he actually physically ‘becomes’ Zuma, by some form of magic trick or universal pot luck. I think that unlikely for several reasons, chief of which is the fact that the current Zuma will in all probability still be in charge of everything in my country when my boy grows up and it’s unlikely he will willingly give up his seat, even to himself.

Yes, not being in charge of things is somewhat of a bitter pill for our six year old to swallow to be sure. But we coated it in the sweet, studded sugar of new soccer boots and that seemed to make all the difference.

To add to that, on match days, he gets ten Rand which he can spend however he chooses. At the moment he’s doing a 65/35 split between spend and save each week and he says this is because he’s saving up for a special Lego purchase; either the Millenium Falcon or the Death Star.

I am immensely proud of the fact that he’s saving money. Especially when one considers that he can literally buy anything from the Tuck Shop at the soccer field since everything in the shop is ten Rand or less.

But I haven’t had the heart to tell him that the depreciation of the Rand, combined with the amount of money he’s saving each week (R3.50) and the current cost of both of his speciality Lego items, means he will probably only be able to afford one of them several years after he takes over from Zuma.

And that’s only if Zuma gives him the keys to his Swiss bank account.


The future dog house

We really can’t decide what breed of dog to get. Lately we’ve been flip-flopping between a Pug, a Beagle and a Great Dane. Boxers and French Bulldogs have also been earmarked at various points, as have the ubiquitous ‘pavement specials‘.

The dog debacle has been brewing in our pot for many months now. At first I was quite reluctant and I decided that before we increased the size of our family, I wanted the halflings to understand the responsibility that a dog in our home would bring. We already have a master and overlord in the house in the form of a grumpy old cat who, in recent years, has become my responsibility alone to take care of. Now this is perfectly ok because she is quite a self-sufficient creature and I love her so I don’t mind taking care of her one whit.

A dog, however, is much more of a responsibility and as such I wanted to impress that upon the family before we took in a brother or sister with a wagging tail, a penchant for chewing things or digging holes and a vocabulary of ‘arf’.

We have a fair sized garden but really dogs need open spaces to run around in so there’s also the Barbera Woodhouse Walkies which will need to happen come rain or shine.

So, a chart was drawn up to track the welfare of the kitty already in the house, in preparation for the dog event. The halflings were tasked with ensuring she was fed and watered every day, and given a little little tickle behind her ears, over a period of three weeks. And every day, big confident X’s were scrawled onto the chart above the kitty-station in the kitchen after this was done. At times, there was some conflict around who actually got to mark the chart but I was well impressed with the commitment shown by both of the boys.

As an aside, I’m not sure I was ever the subject of, or responsible for, a progress chart of any kind when I was growing up. It seems to be a rather new practice in our society; to put up a performance assessment device in your kitchen and track your offspring against it. When you say it out loud, it seems a bit of an odd thing to want to do.

But back to our story…

I should point out that my halflings are a little afraid of dogs. Not necessarily because they think they might get bitten, but rather because dogs, as a general rule, don’t respect one’s personal space and when my offspring are around them, they tend to raise their hands like they’re being arrested and try to present their fronts and backs to the dogs at the same time in a weird sort of hula dance…on tippy toes. It really is quite a comical sight when the dog being danced with is a Yorkie.

Cold, wet noses are not a few of their favorite things.

They are however quite enamored with puppies, can’t get enough of them. It seems logical then that we upgrade our house to dog and help them get over their innate fear of man’s best friend by growing up with one. Or indeed two.

So, now we’re looking for the perfect one. You know, that one special creature that creeps into your heart the moment you lay eyes on each other. We’re not going to support the puppy mills for obvious reasons and while we would like to support a rescue shelter, we do need a puppy that can grow with our boys and is ideally not the product of random dog A having sixty seconds of ‘alone time’ on a bus stop or park bench with random dog B.

Note to self; never sit on a bus stop or park bench.

I also have some concerns around the ablutions. Cats, unless they’re a little annoyed with you and decide to place a manifestation of their displeasure under the dining room table, pretty much take care of themselves. Dogs however, don’t seem to progress beyond learning the difference between making outside and making inside. Once they learn this distinction, they pretty much go anywhere outside and leave the cleanup to someone with opposable thumbs.

Inevitably, that someone will be me.


The happy recipe

The McDonald’s Happy Meal is a real conundrum. Actually McDonald’s food, specifically the nuggets, is a minefield of sugar and processed chicken that to me resembles cardboard but is somehow magically transformed into angel cake for children because of the toy. It’s nutritional value is an argument for a different day.

The meal (the toy) is essentially a compromise purchase. A compromise with ourselves. It’s when we don’t feel we should buy our children a significant toy from the toyshop today because it’s just a Saturday morning and we’re just out running the tedious errands of daily suburban life. At the same time however we’re parents that are just desperate to make our children happy whenever an opportunity presents itself because we’re always feeling some level of guilt about the amount of time we spend with them.

The pressures of modern life take their toll on how much time we have with our children and actually, school teachers and caregivers and the like will often spend the same amount of time, if not more, with our children than we do. But then again, some days, so will Blaze.

So we compromise. We give into the enigma that is the happy meal. That special arrangement of matter that is at once both completely inedible, completely pointless (since we only really want the toy) and completely incapable of biodegrading. In point of fact, if a happy meal were left on a table, the food in the box would probably outlive the box and the plastic and metal that the toy was made from too.

But I Greenpeace, back to our story…

We the parents are a little soft you see. We don’t really want to say no to our children. And it’s not because we’re standing on principle or because we think they have enough or even because we suspect they may already be quite spoilt.

It’s for something much simpler than those things. When all is said done, we don’t say no to them because we want to spoil them, we want to spoil them because they’re our children, because we love then, because they’re our raison d’etre, because they’re our every little things. If you have children you’ll understand that biological hankering.

Subconsciously we think back on the days when they were just learning to smile and charitably belt out the odd giggle for us. In those moments we would literally give them anything in the world their hearts desired just to hear them laugh. There was no concept of spoiling them back then, you just gave them whatever they wanted in order to illicit a belly laugh from them.

And it’s hard to let go of that emotional memory, especially when your precious little people are asking you, as sweetly as they know how, for a simple happy meal.

McDamit.


 


The sorry not sorry

Every now and again, one of the halflings will wrong the other in some way. It happens every day in billions of families around the world. Sky is blue, water is wet and siblings will have squabbles.

In these situations we, the overlords of the house, always insist that the antagonist offers a sincere apology to the aggrieved. Giving credit where it’s due,  our boys really are quite good at this, both managing to make heartfelt apologies for wrongdoings when required. Until last night that is.

You see, last night, they both stepped on each other’s toes, so to speak, at the same time and we were witness to the event, so we in our wisdom decreed that they both needed to apologize to each other. And immediately there was a problem.
They simply could not agree who needed to go first. The burgeoning argument moved into the passage out of our sight and seemed on the verge of escalating into fisticuffs. I suddenly struck upon an idea that I thought would solve the problem quite nicely. I (quite naively) suggested that they apologise together on the count of three. Seems perfectly legitimate right? There was a moment of consideration followed by unanimous and hearty buy-in from the passage.

So I counted down for them…three, two, one and then the big guy said “I’m sorry”.

There was an unmistakable and pregnant pause of silence followed by a small, simple and abrupt “sorry” from the little guy. And immediately there was another problem.

The big guy belted out a complaint that it wasn’t fair that he had apologised first. The little guy was tellingly silent. I could actually hear the gears turning under his curly mop of hair from where I was sitting. He’d played this game before you see and he knew exactly how to win.

The game is called Rock, Paper, Scissors. You wait a heartbeat on the count of three, you see what the other guy chose, you then pick a winning sign and (drumroll please) you win. Perfectly played except for one minor foible, he’d waited just a fraction too long before he spoke and thus drew negative attention to himself and his ploy.

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to reign the little guy in when he gets older. He’s completely self aware and gives no quarter in most disputes he’s involved in.   I must add that he’s not completely blinded by his obstinacy though and will give in on occasion when it’s clear to him that there’s no possible way for him to win. But those situations are few and far between and he always takes a little timeout to ‘process’ the situation so you know he’s thought it through properly.

Luckily, I have some time. Not much, but some. Time to figure out a way help him to compromise a little better. I have to figure it out, before he ends up with his finger on a doomsday switch while someone across a big table is arguing the minutia of thermonuclear war with him. 

If we ever get there, then we’re all in big, big trouble.


The headless lego men

For some time now I’ve noticed that the little Lego characters inside the big box of Lego have fallen victim to a serious illness. They seem to be turning up headless. It’s happening more frequently these days and I simply I can’t figure out why it’s happening. I mean, I know who’s doing it, I just don’t know why.

The little guy will easily spend an hour all by himself sitting in front of the big box of Lego building crazy little creations. Everything he builds must have wheels or wings, that’s a given. Once he built a hydrofoil. I’ll wait a moment while you follow that link. I had to look it up too. He’s four.

Along with almost every creation he’ll have a hero and some sort of villain. The curious thing is it seems that in order for there to be a winner, someone has to loose their head. It’s almost as if he’s a parody of a French Revolutionary with a virtual guillotine. It should be noted that he doesn’t seem to have any clear preference for who wins or loses in these little matinees of his, just that in the end someone must loose their little yellow or pink Lego heads.

As an aside, I’d like to point out that in Lego, for the longest time, all the little characters had yellow heads with black details for mouth, nose, eyes and the like. When the Star Wars Lego started arriving on the scene, the characters all seemed to be created with little pink faces. Evolution I guess. But I digress…

The little guy, makes no distinction along these lines either. Yellow or pink, good or bad, Star Wars or Racing Car driver, the heads are all equally at risk. I often question him about it to try understand why, in his mind, they need to be beheaded and to date I still have not received a satisfactory response. He kind of skirts around the issue. I did make a rule that he can take the heads off while he’s playing but that when he’s done, everyone needs to be reconstituted and he agreed.

Then, a few days ago I went through the Lego and tried to rebuild all of the box set pieces that were missing wings or doors or wheels, matching them up with their Lego men. I find it quite relaxing, therapeutic even, creating order out of chaos like that. I uncovered a plethora of little Lego characters missing their heads. But it must be said, that my little Doctor Frankenstein gave it a best effort to try cover up the fact that he’d misplaced heads. He’d found a Lego piece in the box on which the Lego heads are based, one of their box sets had about ten of these pieces in it so there’s no shortage of them and they’re yellow to boot. But tellingly, there are no faces painted on these pieces. So he used these pieces as heads and covered up all the blank faces with Star Wars storm trooper helmets. On the surface everything looks fine, but dig a little deeper, lift a helmet or a visor and you find a mutant underneath.

In the end, I fixed all but one of them, a poor business man in a suit (can’t imagine where we got him from) for whom there was no real head to be found anywhere. So he remained the faceless business man. Not a word was exchanged between the little guy and I about this restoration on my part. Later that afternoon when the boys saw all the Lego men arranged neatly (and a little obsessive compulsively if I’m honest) on a Lego board for them, the little guy immediately pulled a storm trooper helmet off one of the men and a knowing smile spread across his sweet little face…

All fixed.