I’ve always been a fan of Star Trek, specifically the “Next Generation” series, so when my son got a build-your-own toy-brick U.S.S. Enterprise last Christmas I was pretty excited, because I figured it was something that he and I could have fun doing together. Like many of our toys (lest we be overwhelmed by them), it was put up on a shelf for future use, and according to the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” rule it was promptly forgotten. Fast-forward to a few days ago, when I found it in the closet and my eyes lit up. “Hey!” I said to my boy, “Let’s build THIS tomorrow!” “Yeeeah!” He said. It was a date.
During our time building the toy-brick star ship, I learned a few things. The first thing I learned is that the shape of the Enterprise does not facilitate easy toy-brick construction. There are a lot of curves and skinny places on the ship, which sometimes means that when you press down on one part to put the bricks together, another part that you had just worked very hard on will fall apart and cause you to get very creative with your swear words in front of your children (“SHIP! … MOTHER … MOTHER SHIP!”)
The second thing that I learned is that having your other child, too young for this activity, encircling your workspace like a vulture while you are trying to guard all the tiny pieces that you will need for the ship to actually be assemble-able is VERY stressful, and makes the whole process not at all relaxing. From the beginning to the end of this days-long project I had nightmares about the sound that the little odd-shaped pieces make when they fall to the kitchen floor, when you can hear them bouncing around and landing who knows where, and you look up from your careful construction work and see your five-year-old standing there looking guilty as hell. We tried to find things for her to “help” with, to keep her occupied, but, alas, her lack of patience mixed with her lack of fine motor control resulted in pretty much everyone being miserable when she “helped.” Cue copious amounts of My Little Pony on Netflix.
The final thing that I learned is that it requires adult-strength to really press down hard enough on all those pieces in order to get them to actually hold together, which resulted in a somewhat frustrated seven-year-old, and a somewhat panicked 30-something year old. Because, you see, somewhere along the way this ship became MY ship, and I wanted it to be perfect, and I began to dream of my children going to sleep so I would actually get to PLAY with it. So when it came to putting the pieces together, it took everything I could muster to remind myself that this was my seven-year-old’s toy, and not my toy. This was especially important to remember when it came time to apply the stickers. You know, those tiny, fit-to-size, clear plastic stickers they provide with models, the stickers that give you ONE SHOT to apply them precisely in the exact right location, and if you mess it up, you’re basically screwed. They adhere to that plastic like a group of tweens to the latest vampire-themed romance novel, so GOOD LUCK separating them without dealing with some pretty severe angst.
I watched in horror as my son peeled a sticker off the paper, getting his fingers all over the sticky side. I held my breath as he crookedly positioned each sticker over its final resting place. I fought every urge to grab them and place them properly as I watched him move them closer and closer towards the ship. I silently cringed as he stuck them on and attempted in vain to smooth out the many wrinkles that resulted.
As it turns out, I had to let a lot of things go during that project, in favour of letting my seven-year-old feel proud of something that he had worked hard to build, even if it ended up being less-than perfect. And I enjoyed watching him joyfully play afterwards with the Star Trek characters in their newly-constructed, perfectly-imperfect ship. “I’m so excited!” He kept saying to me as we worked on it, “It’s looking really good!”
In the end I have had to agree — it looks pretty darn good. For him it is a work of art — a crooked-stickered masterpiece, and he was it’s primary engineer. For me it is so much more than just the Federation’s flagship — is a monument to letting go and deciding that it’s not all about me, even if it IS Star-Trek themed and even if I AM the only one in this family who knows the difference between a Necelle and a Photon Torpedo Tube. Which I totally am.