A couple of weeks ago I packed up my kids toys. It's not the end of toy playing for them but the toys are going on an extended hiatus.
It's not even the fact that in all the years they have had them, they've never cleaned them up, despite promises of rewards or threats of punishment. After all, we solved the "Lego underfoot" problems by giving the kids their own toy room which we can easily close the door on instead of cleaning.
Nope, it's because both boys have entered a destructive phase which I remember from my own childhood.
For me, it all came to a head when I visited a friend's place and we watched TV together. There was
This advertisement for "battle damaged derby cars" which sounded incredibly cool. Of course, my parents had financial issues; dad was out of work and my mother hadn't worked since I was born. There was no chance of getting the cars and even if there were, I'd be waiting about 10 months until Christmas.
The next week at school, my friend kept talking about how he was going to convert his matchbox (die cast metal) cars to be "battle-damaged" and then a day or two later he told me how great they turned out.
I knew my friend was a pathological liar because he'd often tell unbelievable stories, like how he rode his bike faster than all the traffic but somehow I didn't think to question his honesty then.
The next weekend, I took my suitcase full of precious matchbox cars into the garage, chose a couple of cars that I didn't love quite so much and I took to them with a hammer.
I failed. They simply crushed and their wheels broke off. They didn't give the authentic "battle damaged" look I was after. I decided that it was something I had done wrong and gave it another shot with some different cars. I failed again.
I tried over and over again, with the hammer, chisels, screwdrivers and all kinds of other things thinking that if my friend did it so easily, there must be a problem with me.
Finally, only my very favourite cars remained. Everything else was destroyed. It was then that I snapped out of it and realised what I had done to my beloved toys.
I knew that I had to get rid of them but I couldn't put them in the bin or my failure would be discovered. I decided to put them all down the drain in the street.
So there it was that my parents found me crying and putting all my beloved cars down the drain. I never explained why, I simply didn't have the words to express it. I was disciplined and my parents never let me forget the incident but I didn't need disciplining. I needed understanding.
My parents told everyone around me and many people said to me that I was wasteful and that if I didn't like my cars, I could have given them to their child. They never understood that I loved those cars and that there was a psychological reason for my actions.
I held onto my last five cars until I had kids and I passed them onto my kids, who eventually broke them. I never played with them again though because just looking at them reminded me of one of the saddest days of my childhood.
This all brings me back to the present. My kids love Lego. It's the most played with and most frequently requested of all their toys. Of course, being 10 and 13 now, they're starting to turn to other indoor pursuits like gaming and the internet. This means that the lego is being played with less and is being picked up even less than usual. About six months ago, I picked up all of the lego and noticed a disturbing trend. My kids had disassembled all of the lego people, lost most of the pieces and chewed many of the others. By disassembled, I mean down to the smallest pieces, detaching the arms from the shoulders and the hands from the arms so that they're no longer recognisable as "pieces of people". I reassembled the people again as best I could and told the kids not to do it again. Adding, that if they did, I'd remove the lego for a long time.
Recently we needed to make some changes around the house to make some more room, I decided to clean up the lego and to my horror, I found three intact figures. The rest I collected into a bucket (carefully separating their pieces from the rest of the lego - a process that took nearly three weekends on my knees). One day I'll work up the stamina to reassemble them.
I've decided that my kids playtime has turned "bad" for the lego. I'll give them back in a year or so when they're older and more appreciative (and more responsible) but in the meantime, I'm doing things to protect them from themselves. I don't want them to look back and regret their mistakes like I did.