My four and a half year old son, E, loves Legos. Each day, he looks forward to his afternoon rest time away from his younger siblings, because it is then that he gets his Lego box, sprawls out on the floor, and sets to work on his newest creation.
I am rather amazed that my son loves Legos, because he is easily frustrated. Partly due to his temperament and partly due to his young age, my son’s first and almost immediate reaction to most difficulty, obstacles, or misfortune is to throw up his hands, stick out his bottom lip and howl at the top of his lungs. Given the fact that most Legos sets are recommended for children ages 6 years or older, it is predictable that my son will struggle with certain pieces and assembly steps. So, it is also not surprising that many rest-time Lego-building sessions have been put on hold because of outbursts of disappointment and discouragement.
Like most of my children’s behaviors that I find particularly tedious, I realized this week that there is a lesson for me in my son’s easily frustrated temper. My husband, who is a surgeon, arrived home for dinner and reported that his day in the operating room had been particularly challenging. The surgery that he performed that day had been far more difficult than he had expected. At one point during the surgery, when he was already operating painstakingly slow to avoid mistakes, a piece of critical equipment broke, slowing the progress of his operation even further. “I suddenly felt like E. I kept thinking, ‘I can’t do this. This is impossible. I’ve failed.’ I wanted to flop down and scream at the top of my lungs.” (Thankfully, my husband is a very calm person who is rarely pushed to the limits of his patience. Thanks be to God, after several more hours of painstakingly slow work, his patience paid off and the surgery ended successfully for the patient.)
As my husband commented on his day, I realized that we all have Lego moments in our lives, moments when we want to give up, flop down, and howl at the top of our lungs. Only a few days earlier I had behaved in nearly the exact same way. I had offered to bring dinner to a pregnant friend, and I had nearly cracked in the kitchen when, after hours of work, potatoes emerged raw from the oven, the fish was cooking too quickly, and the chocolate glaze that I had gingerly prepared broke as I went to pour it on the cake. Time was up, I thought dinner was ruined, and I was fuming at the idea of having to order a take-out pizza.
Though we grow older, there will always be Legos of various sorts in our lives. Our work, endeavors, and life circumstances will push us to the brink with seemingly insurmountable obstacles and discouragements. In those moments, I need to remember my own advice to my son in his despondency: “Take a deep breath, E. Fussing is not going to help. Would you like try again?” And I hope that, like my son with his Legos, I learn to love the source of my frustration and do just that: try again.