They start you insidiously: Duplos, those fat, primary-colored blocks. At first, toddlers just wing them at each other. Then they see how tall of a tower they can build. They’re still a pain in the ass, those Duplos. I used to have traumatic stress reactions when I heard the clatter of them being poured onto a hardwood floor. Then you finally get sick of the dumping, and your kid’s previously constructed monoliths to the Duplo gods, and you think you have some time. But let me tell you: You are wrong.
Those bastards have achieved complete market saturation. They haven’t even given us a year of grace before they’re foisting Lego Junior on our kids. And we don’t understand it then, Duplo-dumping notwithstanding. We’re actually excited. Real Legos! Now our play is getting somewhere! No longer do we sit and push stupid wooden cars on the ground. Now we build. Now we construct. Now we use our fucking imaginations and those tiny little bricks to create entire universes!
And laboriously, Junior builds his Lego Junior once. Then he dismantles it. He loses the instructions. He begs for more Legos, which he gets, because duh, they’re Legos, which are so educational. And then he builds those kits and loses those instructions, and so the circle of Lego continues. They just accumulate, like driftwood or fallen leaves, some natural fucking phenomenon of childhood that it falls to parents to pick up.
Because pick up you will, my friend. No matter how much you stomp and threaten and beg and silently weep, you will be the one to clean up those Legos, probably with a broom and a dustpan. They will have scattered from their point of origin through all the rooms in your house. You will have stepped on them and screamed. You will do this more than once while you clean. And those pieces are so small. They’ve shrunk since we were kids, when the smallest piece was a flat one-headed thingie. Now they have teensy circles and gears, and the people — Minifigs! — are not only collectible but meant to come apart, so you have to tear the whole house to shreds until you locate Batman’s head lurking behind the toilet (true story).
Batman — because it’s all branded these days. No more do you buy “castle people” (my thing) or “pirate people” (my sister’s). No, now Legos are all Batman and Star Wars and Jurassic Park and Scooby-Doo, and those are just the branded ones my kids are into. So all that imaginative play becomes a reenactment of a movie or TV show. Stuff has to be “right.” I tried to make Batman fly a starship once, and you’d have thought a pagan witch ascended the altar at Easter Vigil.
Admittedly, however, it is amusing to stick Chewbacca’s head on everything. But the Jurassic Park dinos cost more than my first pony, and their legs pop off and disappear into the ether. Then they’re good for absolutely nothing but landfill. Not cool.
The branded stuff is pretty bad. But it’s the in-house Lego brands that make me want to flee to Vegas and pretend I never, ever birthed children. I tried to watch an entire episode of each of the shows so I could bitch specifically about them. But I simply could not do it. They’re just too annoying, and as best as I can realize, involve one group of people — the “good guys” — beating and being beaten on by another group of people, aka the “bad guys.” These groups have names. They are stupid names, like Ninjago versus Serpentine, which are — shock me, shock me — snake people. The Ninjago practice Spinjitzu, a Japanese-inspired martial art.
Then there’s Lego’s Nexo Knights, a group of macho dudes and one chick who have to stop these villains from feeding books to another book to make monsters. Or something. Like, there are books, and the knights aren’t all horse and armor, but magic and tech. Your kids watch these TV shows nonstop. Their theme songs bore into your brain: “Jump back kick back whip around and spin, Ninjago yeah come on come on come on…” That’s the gist anyway — the exact words aren’t important. I just gave you that earworm. You’re welcome.
These franchises all come with Lego Set upon Lego set upon Lego set, all of which include exclusive Minifigs that your child has to have, or they will curl up and die beneath the Lego table. They are expensive. Lego wants you to buy the shit out of them because they’re pure profit, unlike the branded sets, for which they have to kick some cash to Warner Brothers or George Lucas or the frozen head of Scooby-Doo. The cheapest sets cost 15 bucks at Target, and they go up from there, and up, and up and up and up — like, into the hundred-dollar range.
At which point you are paying $100 for miniature plastic pieces that your child must personally assemble. After they assemble it, they will not keep it together because then they’d be the asshole dad in The Lego Movie. They will take your hundred dollars, and they will scatter it through your house where you will step on it, sweep it up, and finally spend half an hour of your precious time digging under the couch for Pythor, the head Serpentine dude from Ninjago. I know that because I did it, and my kids told me his name. It’s originality makes me want to chew plate glass.
I had fond memories of Lego. I remembered my castle sets. I remembered my Rubbermaid tub full of bricks. I remembered my horses, which are basically the only fucking things that haven’t changed.
I was excited to share Lego with my sons. I was oh so wrong. Now they whine for Legos. They watch Legos. They play Legos according to the storylines they just watched and whine for more sets based on the shows they just saw. It’s this vicious cycle of profit (Lego) and loss (me). And then I have to clean it all up again. And step on it again.
Let this be a warning to you, new parents. You think the Duplos are cute. You think the Duplos are fun and educational. You think you should share the love of your childhood with your kid. Then, pretty soon, you’re earworming Ninjago and finding Scooby-Doo in the washing machine. Don’t do it.
Step away from the Legos, my friend. Step away.