What Have We Learned Today, Children?

My older son is into Lego now. Big time. He wants all of the big sets (especially all things Star Wars), but as these are horrendously expensive and I want him to create things on his own, we’re sticking with smaller sets that can be mixed up in the Bucket o’ Legos and made into new things.

His latest adventure is building every version of the DeLorean from the Back to the Future movies. It starts with a base from a tractor set, and has bits added from there. Steering wheel, dashboard computer, the bit where the garbage goes in… he does it all, and he’s very proud of his creations.

Until he drops them on the floor.

This is one disadvantage of Lego toys, and another reason we don’t buy the big sets. If you’re playing with the things you make, they’re going to break. Unless you glue them together, it’s pretty much inevitable.

My dear child is a sensitive sort, and he takes disappointment about as well as I do– that is, not well at all. On Wednesday he dropped the BTTF III DeLorean and the rear end shattered. And he cried. Of course he did. He’d spent a lot of time building that. Worse, he had convinced himself that he couldn’t do it again. This car, this thing that he’d created, had been perfect, the ultimate, the very best he could do, and it could never be replaced.

He was crushed.

I tried to reason with him. “The car you made was amazing,” I told him (not lying- given the limited supplies he had available, it was pretty awesome). “You’re upset about this, and that’s OK. I know it hurts to lose something you’ve worked so hard on.”

Yes, folks, I had my Good Mama panties on that day. It’s hard not to be frustrated with a “big” kid who’s wailing over something that seems insignificant in the larger scheme of things (“a LEGO car? Kid, I have BILLS to pay and I can’t figure out what’s making the fridge stink!”), but I really did understand. I’ve been there. I’ve written 55,000 words of a story and then lost it all in a computer glitch/crash/file transfer error. I’ve worked on customizing a pony, spent hours on it, and realized I was painting the wrong side. I know the pain of having to start over.

So I let him be upset, and I tried to reassure him. I told him that he’d done it once, he could do it again. I told him (again, from experience) that it would probably be even better the second time around. He would take what he learned the first time and build on it.

He didn’t believe me. He said he could never do it again. Finally I explained to him he had two options: he could set it aside until he calmed down and then try again, or he could give up.

“I don’t want to give up!” he wailed. He went to his room and closed out the whole cruel, Lego-breaking world for a while.

And then, when I wasn’t looking, he sneaked out and made a new Delorean.

It was better. He was happy.

Did he learn anything from that experience? I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but this was not our first time dealing with this exact same issue (hence the frustration on my part).

I did, though. It’s something I think most of us have been through: creation of something we love, loss of that creation, the temptation to say “Screw it, I didn’t want a DeLorean anyway.” But when we pick up the pieces (literally or figuratively speaking) and ask what we’ve learned from our past attempts, we find that we can make something just as good– or even better. Not a new lesson to me, but one I needed to be reminded of.

That’s not the only lesson I’ve learned in the past few days, but it’ll do for now. Maybe next week we’ll take a look at “Congratuations, You Can’t Win.” THAT’S a fun one!

So tell me: have you been there? What was your Lego DeLorean, and how did the next attempt turn out? Have you ever decided that something was just too broken to be fixed?

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About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with a Mountie, two kids who take turns playing Jeckyll and Hyde, two cats, an intentional boxer and an accidental chihuahua. She's the author of the bestselling Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy). www.katesparkes.com View all posts by Kate Sparkes

10 responses to “What Have We Learned Today, Children?

  • evilsquirrel13

    I had a Domino Rally set when I was a kid, and spent a good chunk of time one day setting up an extravagant series of dominoes to set off for the whole family to watch, only to accidentally trip it before I was finished. I don’t think I ever played with that stupid set again. I get frustrated easily and have a short attention span anyway, so I just moved on to something else…

  • wendyalowden

    Ooooooo…that domino one is good…that happened to me when I tried to make a house of cards a lot. My biggy is from high school though..my twin and I were in the same english class in gade 12. The teacher handed back tests and essays in order…highest to lowesat (stupid teacher). Anyway, kathy always got. The highest marks, and was given her work back before mine. Eeryone would turn to look at ME. Eventually, I stopped being mad about it, and gave up trying to get mine back first. Silly me…if I had kept trying, my mark would have been better, I would have beat her a few times (maybe), and I would have learned to keep trying. In highschool though, all that was importat was having everyone so used to Kathy getting her paper bak first that they stopped lookong at me. High school…wouldn’t live those years over agsin for just about anything!

  • Jae

    Awesome parenting status — achieved. I’ve had lots of lost things that darn near killed me, but like you said, you can either quit or start over. This is why I’m constantly pressing the ‘save’ button and emailing copies of my manuscript to various account and putting it on various devices. But often those mishaps lead you to greater discoveries. Shoot, we all know after Batman had his house burned down by R’as al Ghul, he didn’t cry. He went and built himself the friggin’ bat cave! Let’s build bat caves, friends.

    No seriously, I want to build an actual batcave. Anyone in? Anyone?

    • Kate Sparkes

      I am SO in. Can we make it out of lego? That’s all I have.

      • Jae

        Hmm… we’re going to need a lot of legos. Or bigger ones. I’d love to prank place that order into lego. “Hello, I wanted to construct a life-size batcave. About how many pieces do you think I’ll need? Oh, and there will need to be a few functioning kiosks as well as an elevator. 😉

  • Green Embers

    What a fantastic post! I love this. You lost 55,000 words?! I would cry. I really would. I can barely get 1500 words, I can’t even imagine the loss of that. Good message though, sometimes we just need to calm down and do it again. (Also back up like mad).

    • Kate Sparkes

      Yeah. Grab a cup of tea, sit here and let me share the tale: It was my first NaNoWriMo. I won. It was fantastic. And then my words, they were gone. I was up over 60,000 words by that point, and was left with just a few chapters. Rather upsetting. But, lesson learned (though back-ups wouldn’t have helped much in this case, unless they were in another program), and the re-write was SO much better.

      And then, somehow, I lost everything I wrote last November for NaNo, too, when my computer broke and the file didn’t get transferred to the new one, and at the SAME TIME my USB stick got covered in chocolate.

      Now I use dropbox and e-mail files to myself.

      I also consider first drafts “exploration drafts,” keep lots of notes, and try to remember that the re-writes are better. 🙂

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