Sunday morning. On my way down to the laundry room with arms full of sheets and towels, I pass Gus at the kitchen table. He has a new Lego set. It’s a motorcycle. He unwraps every tiny piece of plastic with glee. I try not to panic. Instead, I consider that the new Gus may just put it together 1-2-3. By himself! I even say the words: Look at the picture, it tells you how!
I carry my laundry and my optimism down to the laundry room. Before long though, I hear a moaning upstairs: Oh no. Oh no, Oh no, no, nooooooo. I stuff the clothes in the washing machine and slowly walk up. Gus sits at the kitchen table, every single tiny piece of the new motorcycle lego set spread out in front of him.
Except of course the single most important one: the front wheel of the motorcycle has gone missing.
The very spectacle of it makes me itch all over. I long to pick up every piece and throw them in the garbage. I long to put on my ice skates and stomp all over them.I long to place a household ban on tiny little plastic pieces of anything. I feel my face go all Joan Crawford. No more wire hangers!
Lego set + the ADD child + busy Mom = a tumbler of vodka and ten hours binge watching some HBO dramatic series. Granted, I am no good at Math, or Lego for that matter, but I begin to fear that my beautiful Sunday is in danger of being highjacked. So what to do? Make it worse, of course.
Honey, you just got this last night! Why does this always happen? Where did you have it last? And the kicker, maybe: Put it together without the wheel!
(I am the youngest of five children. We never had every piece to anything. One of the most beloved possessions that came into our playroom was a jeep. One could peddle his way around the neighborhood in that thing at high speeds. One could, but not me. By the time I was even allowed to sit in it, the wheels were gone.)
Gus gets up from the table. No, I don’t want to do this.
You’re just going to give up? I say. I look at all those now useless pieces of plastic in panic. I am just about to add something about how spoiled he is, when a bell goes off in my head. I have been attending numerous conferences and support groups and book clubs about early childhood development lately. I feel like the rat who has gone from the boring old cage – where we tell kids they are spoiled – to the enriched rat cage where we actually have other wheels to try. Oh. I remember, OK, that won’t work.
Gabor Mate, in his book Scattered Minds, writes: “When we endure our children’s anger or frustration with compassion they will often move on to the sadness of not having what they wished for.”
Gus, I say. You must be so frustrated that you don’t have the wheel. The wheel is the best part!
He sits down. Tears spring to his eyes. He touches all the other pieces lovingly.
I go to the drawer and pull out a ziplock – one of Gus’ favorite things in the world. And it’s a big, new one. (I try to reuse them, and use the smallest one I can, but clearly, this is an emergency.)
So I say, Please put all the pieces in here. Take the bag up to your room. Oh, and please, get your shoes on.
I don’t know where they are, says Gus. I lost them.
I did not take that bait. (I am a rat, but my brain is plastic!)
Five minutes later, Gus is back downstairs, happy as can be.