Tag Archives: Sharing

The building blocks

So after a lengthy hiatus, I’m back and have a little yarn I’d like to spin.

Our eldest has developed a hankering for Lego of late and having always had a small collection of the stuff, clobbered together over time, he started to build creations of his own design, veering away from the step-by-step connect-the-dots structures his pieces were originally made for.

So that’s great, but the issue one faces very quickly when going off plan like that is you don’t have enough pieces to build much of anything other than chariot with a couple of knights on it or a small formula one race car. In short, you need more pieces.

So we headed off to our local Lego outlet. A word of warning, do not go there without an exit strategy. There, we found a starter-kit of sorts containing around 600 mixed pieces of Lego which were varied and duplicate enough to build just about anything the heart desired. Sounds like a lot of Lego doesn’t it?

It is not.

You see, the moment you have more pieces of Lego, you cross a magic line in the sand where you almost have too much. With a limited supply, you build one thing, admire it for a short while and then dismantle and build something else. When you have a large bucket full of incredibly tough and unbelievably sharp and inexplicably invisible (until you stand on them without shoes on) pieces of Lego, your child will build something and then refuse to dismantle it, rather using other pieces from the slush fund of Lego to create something new each time. In short order you have a collection of beautiful and unique Lego creations and no spare pieces for all the rice in China.

Our Lego box contains at least eight sets of wheels so almost all of our creations have wheels – even if they then also happen to later get wings and propellers and a horse as propulsion. Sometimes the designs sport a medieval chariot wheel used as a steering wheel that no Lego man on earth can wrap his hands around and just as inexplicably, a green Lego leaf or two. There’s always a lovely symmetry between the left and right sides of things which appeals to my ordered mind. Admittedly, it is a little O.C.D but an eye for detail like that will serve my boy very well later on in life.

I expect I’m going to have to extend the size of the collection of pieces by an order of magnitude so that there is less need to destroy before creating again. Much later on we’ll add motors and servos and then we’ll start having little minions roaming the house in no time at all, stalking the cat.

That of course means two things, the first is that the radius of the scattering of Lego in the house is going to be extended which has it’s own dire implications (see reference to standing on Lego above) and the second is, at that point, my boy is going to have to share his toys with me.


The precious

Ownership of things in a multi-child household is a complex dynamic. The way it works is that you buy something for the eldest child (Dad) and immediately the questions start being asked about when the cascade of things below it will float downstream. For instance, Dad gets a new iPad Air and suddenly the old iPad2 is a technological dinosaur/orphan that desperately needs a new parent and questions around the transfer of ownership begin to surface like bubbles in a tar-pit.

The idea always was to make the iPad2 a child iPad by removing everything except games and educational apps from it and then handing it over to the boys to play with. The problem of course is that there are two boys and only one spare iPad. So there can’t really be a time when we sit both of the boys down with the iPad and let them play because unless we ‘King Solomon’ the device, sharing simply does not take place. It always degenerates into a scrabble of clenched fists, tears and tug of war in which the stronger (or indeed most stubborn) wins custody. The other will then collapse into a heap of despair until the device is handed over or simply removed from his brother (this option transfers tears from one brother to another).

It is, in a word, a conundrum.

There are a couple of options here in that we could introduce one of the iPhones into the mix. The problem is that an iPhone is simply not the same as an iPad when the two are laid side by side. On its own, an iPhone is a marvelous distraction and is welcomed by both boys whilst having a haircut or waiting at a restaurant for dinner to arrive or even on a long car trip. But next to an iPad it is like we love the child holding the iPad that much more. Not true of course, but it is a difficult thing to explain to a child. Would rather tackle where do babies come from.

So now we have to come up with a schedule of sorts. Something akin to a custody agreement of who gets the iPad at what times. I have no doubt that the first time-slot allocation will dissolve into a small puddle of salty self pity for the brother that isn’t allocated to the slot, but that cannot be helped. The transfer of custody between the brothers after the first one’s time is up is also bound to raise a few hackles. That too cannot be helped.

Of course we could just hand over one of our new iPad’s (my wife has an iPad Mini) to the child without a pad and then I think the children would be happy. I suspect though that there will be parent sized puddles of salty tears about which one of us has to hand over ‘their precious’ to the kids.

What is that word again? Oh yes, a conundrum.

The mine, yours and ours

Ownership is a very important concept to most children and the younger they are the more important it is. Obviously if they’re infants and spend the lion’s share of their time on their backs in baby grows staring at the ceiling, possessions aren’t that important unless you’re talking bottles, dummies, boobs and possibly a fluffy toy or two.

My boys are always testing the boundaries regarding the ownership of things. Actually though, for our eldest who’s a little older now, the mine vs. yours is not as important as it once was. Whereas he used to spend his time fighting over playing with toys with his younger brother, he now spends an equal amount of time trying to prevent his brother from playing with a toy. It would seem then that his focus has changed from “It’s mine” to “It’s not yours”, a subtle difference.

He tests us as parents when he thinks he can get away with it, tests his brother non-stop and I’m guessing that he does it at school as well, though possibly to a lesser degree since we haven’t heard any complaints. I’ve explained to him many times that he doesn’t actually own anything in the house, he’s merely the primary user of certain things under my roof and I am in fact the owner (I being the collective I of my wife…and I). If I’m honest, all of these types of discussions with him have ended in tears because he refuses to accept the reality of his situation. I have a feeling he’s going to be the type of person that people describe as being stubborn later on in life. Perhaps he’ll list that trait as one of his areas for improvement on psychometric tests and job interviews, at least then he’ll own it and let’s face it, stubborn people aren’t pushovers.

He’s a good boy, but he’s a thinker. Some things he refers to as ‘mine’, so certain toys obviously, his room, his bear, friends and so on. Other things that he’s less than interested in are ‘yours’ or someone else’s, anyone else’s for that matter, so things like toys he no longer wants to play with. Finally there are things that are ‘ours’ and this is where his genius shines through, these are new toys that his brother has that he’d like to play with They become ‘our ‘ toys and obviously anything that’s ‘ours’ must be shared because that’s a rule of the house. It’s brilliant! Imagine applying that philosophy in your adult life.

I’m going to have to keep a weather eye out for these kinds of things from our eldest at pocket money time or I may just find myself converting the lion’s share of ‘my’ salary into ‘our’ pocket money and doing it of my own volition too.

Something about being able to sell ice to eskimo’s comes to mind…