Freak flags fly at the Lego store

A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and...
A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and sizes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m treading on shaky ground here, I know.

It’s generally not a good idea to associate an all-American pastime like Legos (even though they’re anything but American—they’re Danish) with freakishness of any sort. It’s akin to commenting on the sanctity of motherhood or apple pie.

Oh, but I’m more than qualified to comment. You see, I mother one of those freaks. And I mean that in the most loving way possible.

My eldest could be a Lego poster boy.

Since his tiny little fingers could grasp a Lego and he had enough sense not to eat it, he has been building with the Bricks. And building. And BUILDING.

We progressed from barely recognizable stick figures to rudimentary cars and trucks. Then, on to the inevitable for any red-blooded American boy—tanks, battlefields and military forts. I don’t know where my Dove genes went, but this boy is all Hawk.

The setups have gotten taller (touching his bedroom ceiling) and wider (three-quarters of said bedroom) with many layers—each of which he could explain to you, in copious detail. Nothing is built without a specific purpose and the synergy between the pieces always amazes me.

So when I took my boys to the city this weekend, eager anticipation was a given. As we viewed the Chicago skyline from 95 floors up, their question was, “When are we going to the Lego store?” As I pointed out the bits of history embedded in the Tribune Tower, “How much longer before the Lego store?” And needless to say, as we watched street performers dazzle the crowds—well, let’s just say it wasn’t the Lego store.

When we walked into nirvana (aka—you guessed it—the Lego store), my boys flew to their respective favorite sections, so I had plenty of time to observe not only them but every other family in the store. It was a packed house, being a holiday weekend and I was amused to find I could decipher parent/child conversations, regardless of language barrier.

The Russian boy pleading for the Star Wars Death Star (clocking in at roughly 3,800 bricks) seemed to have a convincing argument (if arguments are based on vehemence) but his parents were obviously not appreciating the $400 – $500 price tag. He was on the losing end of that battle. The French child seemed to fare much better with his selection, given his father had on a Tolkien t-shirt. There was no way he wasn’t walking out with an entire slew of Hobbit Lego setups. All smiles there.

Which led me to look around. Not at the under-age-eight set. Little boys seem to play with Legos regardless of their other predilections. But anyone over eight years old was letting his freak flag fly. I counted at least 15 Star Wars shirts, eight with some sort of Tolkien trilogy reference and at least a dozen Minecraft shirts. Then I looked at the fathers—and it was easy to see the apple had not fallen far from the tree.

These kids were not just wearing the emblems of their favorite fantasy world, they were waxing poetic, creating their own fantasy lands. For instance, my son spent at least 30 minutes building his version of a fighter jet and wanted to spend at least as much time explaining to me what every part on it did, as well as how they functioned together as a system.

The boy across the aisle from us spent copious amounts of time explaining to his nanny why Star Wars’ Grand Admiral Thrawn played things out the way he did. It included a generous treatise on the characteristics of Thrawn’s race, his upbringing and any hardships he had encountered in life. I’m not sure this same boy could have told us the same regarding Thomas Jefferson.

And a third young gentleman was explaining to the store clerk why they needed to add something similar to aqueducts or sewer systems to the Lego City collection. I’ll spare you the graphic details.

What do these children have in common? In their world, it’s not enough to just build the set you buy. You are not truly a Lego aficionado until you can look at that set, build it in short order and then tear it down to create something even BETTER. Something no Lego engineer has thought of yet. This is the unspoken code of Lego warriors. Ssshhhh. Don’t tell them I told you.

I have a feeling that many of these boys tend to be the geeks, the nerds and the bullied. But I have to admire their passion and tenacity for what many would mock them for at an age when “toys” like Legos are no longer cool.

There’s a reason most of us have heard: “Be nice to nerds. Chances are, you’ll end up working for one.”

These Lego kids are going to make something happen. I don’t know whether it will be a new 3D animated series, the first truly electric sports car that can drive days without a charge, the indestructible fighter plane, or—in more philanthropic fashion—school environments that foster better learning or more energy-efficient homes. Whatever it is, it will come to life because of their passion. Who knows what David Beckham could have brought to the world had he indulged his love of all things Lego? (A Lego spokesperson said sales of the Lego set he mentioned rose over 600 percent in the day after his admission.)

The point is–without the freak flag, not much of note occurs. These boys are not the ones who will peak at age 16 on the high school football field and then spend the next 50 years telling their Homecoming touchdown story. They’re usually not the kids picked first in gym to be on a team. They’ll get mocked for their excitement about “toys” and may keep their designs a secret to avoid embarrassment. But sooner or later, usually in high school or college—when their particular brand of smarts becomes a commodity that is appreciated—they will fly. Many of these children will become engineers, designers, architects and inventors because of the combination of their smarts and passion. That’s a freak flag worth flying.

Which is why I wait patiently as they build, listen patiently as they share every detail and applaud enthusiastically when they create something new on planet Earth.

If only the rest of the world could do the same . . .

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21 Comments Add yours

  1. Long live legos. My 12-year-old son still can’t get enough of them. Some day when my home is ancient, some anthropologist will be digging through the remains to find only lego blocks left.

    1. candidkay says:

      I often think the same. And I wonder if they’ll wonder what in the heck they were used for:)

  2. L. Palmer says:

    My brother is 25 and still a Lego fanatic

    1. candidkay says:

      And did he turn his obsession with building into a career?

      1. L. Palmer says:

        He’s still working on that…

      2. candidkay says:

        LOL:) If he’s a Lego guy, I’m sure he’ll find a way . . .

  3. Lee says:

    As the mother of girls, I don’t know about this….we did buy our daughters Lego when they were young, but who knows what ever happened to it? It wasn’t a hit. Vive la difference!

    1. candidkay says:

      I wonder if that’s different now, Lee, with so many more girls going into math & engineering? I can tell you boys outnumbered girls 20 to 1 at the Lego store:)

  4. stinam says:

    I too live with a lego freak in the form of my eight year old Aspie. I think we spent just as much time in the lego store located in Downtown Disney as we did inside the actual parks during our last Disney vacation. If only I was as smart as he is, I anxiously await the day when he can help me with my physics/engineering homework. We proudly fly the freak flag at our house, nerds are the best! BAZINGA

    1. candidkay says:

      It sounds like you may earn straight A’s with such a competent tutor:)

  5. Elle says:

    And how about those Lego weapons??!! They are a dollar apiece and they measure about 2mm long by 1mm. Where can I sign up to buy some Lego stock?? There is this documentary about this guy building the largest Lego structure (I think in England) and it was so funny to hear the stories behind people of all ages just showing up to be part of history and a world record. Of course I’ll remember the name in 2014, but hey it was good.

    1. candidkay says:

      And when you do remember the name, you’ll share, right? 🙂 I know a boy who would love that . . .

  6. Mary says:

    Long live Lego geeks! Let the freak flags fly! Every brick I buy I consider a small deposit towards my son’s hopeful future in some form of engineering!

    1. candidkay says:

      Sound like you know your way around a Lego store:)

    2. candidkay says:

      Sounds like you know your way around a Lego store:)

  7. Traci Millea says:

    Bravo!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, friend.

  8. Yvette G says:

    first of all – I LOVE LEGOS. My son always loved them but my confession is that the lego sets he received on birthdays and christmas were ones that I wanted to put together!! Both my children are an odd combination of athlete and nerd. Madison is a biology geek and Collin is a techie. He was once on a lego robotics team and we bought a set for him one year. I continually tell them that nerds rule the world and they will be successful! I could not possibly tell you how many lego pieces we have in our house – thousands and thousands I am sure!

    1. candidkay says:

      Did you watch the David Beckham video link? It sounds like you two have a lot in common:)

    2. candidkay says:

      Did you watch the David Beckham video? It sounds like you two have a lot in common:)

  9. Amy Blenkhorn says:

    My husband is one of those guys!

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