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Published October 26, 2010, 08:25 AM

Follow the directions

TOWNER, N.D. — Fatherhood is a humbling experience. Always has been, I reckon, since the early days when a dad had to ask his kid how to rub those two sticks together to start a fire.

By: Ryan Taylor, Special to Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — Fatherhood is a humbling experience. Always has been, I reckon, since the early days when a dad had to ask his kid how to rub those two sticks together to start a fire.

These days, toys have a minimum suggested age on the box — like “recommended for ages 5 and up” or “not suitable for children under 3 years because of small parts, a choking hazard.”

I’ve wrestled with the directions on some of these toys with my 6-year-old. They should have another age recommendation on there, such as “not recommended for anyone age 30 and up” or “not suitable for adults over 40 years because of small details, a frustration hazard.”

I’m going to drop some brand names here, not that I’m endorsing them, there just aren’t many other ways to describe them. Play time starts innocently with Duplo blocks, then Legos, but before you know it, your floor is littered with tiny K’Nex pieces and your kid is poking a set of Transformer robot directions under your nose and asking for your help.

Parents tell themselves they’re stimulating junior’s brain activity and preparing him or her for a lucrative career in engineering or architecture. Then again, you might be raising a kid who’ll be chronically unemployed but really likes snapping together Legos in all his free time because he’s not working.

Either way, play time becomes a challenge for the parent committed to sitting down and helping with the latest Lego Star Wars Death Star and its 3,802 pieces scattered across the floor. Just completing the droid maintenance room might be a two day job.

Artsy builders

It’s a lot easier on us as parents if we can get our kids to freelance a little with their building toys. “C’mon, don’t bother with those Death Star directions, let’s grab all the long bricks and build a barn!” we plead.

I have completed the K’Nex carnival ferris wheel and had it turning freely but it wasn’t real great father and son time. “Don’t bother me now, son, I’ve just about got your toy figured out, go get Mom and the camera.”

We’re torn between wanting them to follow our directions as parents and encouraging them to dump the 42 step directions for their toy and to go ahead and explore their creative, artistic side. Yo, dude, your Bionicle can look different than the one on the box, just build with your spirit, man, I mean, boy.

Practical skills

The building skills we’re working on in the toy room maybe should be encouraged and channeled to suitable places on the ranch. Recently, my 6-year-old wanted some help transforming his Descepticon Jetblade into robot mode.

It reminded me of the time I had a box of 24 new roller bearings and races for the wobblehead on my hay mower. I really wanted to transform my box of parts into mower mode. If I’d honed my confidence as a kid with a few Transformer robots, it might have gone smoother.

So I helped my boy get the Jetblade into robot mode. He helped me figure out most of the steps. And I dreamed of the day when he could transform all of the broken down Descepticon machines on the ranch into working mode.

When that day comes, it’ll all be worth it.

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