I was watching a friend’s small son play with his Lego sets. He had ones for a fire truck, another for a police car and still another for an airplane. When he was first given his sets, he insisted on having his mother (my friend) put the kits together exactly as they were supposed to be.
He carefully inspected her work, providing her with helpful feedback (No Mommy! Not there, that’s wrong. Bad Mommy. Oh okay that’s good mommy) as she was putting the pieces together. When the pieces were complete he rewarded her with a hug and a “don’t touch any more mommy”. And then he sat and looked at them. He didn’t play with them. He didn’t even move them. He just sat and looked them. He didn’t allow anyone to move them, as if they were fragile and priceless and he was their protector.
After a few days, he was “over” his police car and his fire truck. The airplane lasted one day longer (probably because it was bigger). So my friend took the time to break the kits down and put the pieces back in the original boxes Her thinking was that when he was a little older he might want to try and put them together on his own.
The “he’s older now” time has come so when he asked for his fire truck and police car to be built, my friend brought him the boxes and showed him how to follow the diagrams to put them together on his own. Like a big boy. That was a week ago.
The fire truck and police car morphed into hybrids of his own design. Who cares if the one has all the wheels and the other on is stuck in one place (but it has the fancy lights to it)? He certainly doesn’t mind. Nor does he mind playing with them. In fact he has a silent decree that says they cannot stay the same for more than 2 hours.
My friend is concerned about him. She wonders if he will ever be able to follow diagrams, you know for when he is older and has IKEA furniture. She wonders if he will grasp that there are certain conventions and standards that are just givens in this world. Such as you can’t put all the wheels on the same corner and expect the “vehicle” to move well.
I don’t have the same concerns, and not solely based on the fact that the isn’t my child. I am intrigued by his logic. Thrilled at these bursts of creativity and new inventions that he has. His ability to see the beauty in something that isn’t conventional (who knew how pretty it was to see all those wheels put right together moving at once?) and not feel as though it’s “wrong” somehow.
I delight in his ever-changing ideas of how things work together better this way or that way. I hope he doesn’t change that much that he becomes less creative. I hope he always finds the joy, the beauty and the mystery in things that aren’t the norm. For maybe, just maybe, if he can keep this (and there are other children who do the same) we might find our way to a world of acceptance and embracing of otherness.
The IKEA furniture will get together, somehow. Even if you have way too many of one kind of things left over.