When Oscar, who has never seen the Star Wars films, asked for Star Wars toys for Christmas (based on the recommendations of some of his Kindergarten colleagues), little did we know that Santa and Mrs. Claus (aka Grandpa and Grandma) would come through with roughly two thousand tiny pieces of Lego–pieces so small that even at 41 years old I lack the fine motor skills to handle them.
Each set, of course, comes in its own box–along with a set of directions that runs about, oh, thirty pages or so. When I inquired of Don, who spent two or three hours on Christmas Day building one of the ships, what exactly the appeal was, he informed me (without looking up) that these were like three-dimensional puzzles, then waxed poetically about their assorted assets.
I left and got some cheesecake.
But over the last few days, Oscar has been spending a lot of time with one particular set,#8036 to be exact. He asked me to open the box on Saturday morning, and he has yet to put it down except possibly to sleep. He tossed the directions aside and built a beautiful ship, presented it proudly, and paraded around with it for hours.
But today he came across the directions–and compared his ship to the one on the cover of the booklet. He looked truly crestfallen when he realized they were not the same.
As a teacher, I tell my students over and over again to “read the directions, “to “follow directions, to “look for clues in the directions.” But today I told my son, when he asked if his version of the Star Wars ship looked as good as the one in the picture, “It looks better,” adding, “Who needs the directions?” He reminded me that “sometimes we do.”
And sometimes is indeed the operative word. Many times in life we are aided by the directions that are designed to help us make sense of our world; but in just as many instances, there is no blueprint, or the one that is available isn’t quite right, and we have to figure it all out on our own.
Oscar’s pride was resurrected instantaneously when he took a second look at his creation. Yes, sometimes we do need directions, to follow a prescribed path; but more often than not, there is a certain power in tossing the directions aside and following your own burst of creativity and inspiration. It may not take you where you thought you were going . . . it may wind up taking you someplace better.