March 20, 2011

The Birthday Mission

I am a sucker for two things when it comes to toys for my kids: they've got to be wooden and they've got to be durable. Now, don't get me wrong - I've got plastic toys just like the next mom, most of them hand-me-downs or second-hand deals I just couldn't pass up. But I have made a deal with myself to replace as much of the plastic as possible, when possible, with wooden. 

The mission: the replacement of one of Bram's favourite toys: a horrid half-broken 70's plastic parking garage, with a brandy new German-made, sturdy-as-hell, three-level wooden parking garage.

The occasion: Bram's third birthday.

What better way to toss out the old and ring in the new, right? A new year, another milestone - the 'terrible two's' finally gone, forever! To celebrate this momentous day, a big, wooden durable toy was in order. I strive to teach my children the value of aesthetics, beauty and durability; yes, even when they are way too young to grasp the concept.

The wooden garage has been sitting in its box for the last week and last night, when the kids were finally in bed, I planned to wrap it. That was when it dawned on me: it was not assembled! Giving a three-year-old kid an awesome toy that wasn't even put together is pure torture! I couldn't do that to him.

So, I opened the box, filled my glass of wine to the brim and got to work.

I was pretty sure I possessed the capacity to put this thing together, I mean, I've put IKEA furniture together before, for Pete's sake. How hard could it be? But as I pulled out vague piece after piece, and inspected the cryptic assembly instructions, I began to feel beads of sweat form on my brow. It was after 9pm and I still had decorations to hang up and a birthday cake to adorn. I rolled up my sleeves and got assembling.

Slowly but surely, the garage came together. Hours went by, and the room was filled with the scent of wood and perspiration as I worked arduously. I knew how my son had the gift of finding the weak spot of any given object which could lead to its certain demise. I had to ensure this particular toy was as 'Bram-proof' as possible.

Finally, it was finished. The garage, including the little elevator and two miniature gas pumps, was complete. I was proud, I was elated; for a moment, I was Super Mom. I realized I didn't have enough wrapping paper to cover this gargantuan thing, but as I picked it up to move into the living room, I made an even more horrifying discovery: it came apart! The wooden pegs weren't enough to keep the structure intact - to my dismay, I realized I had forgotten an essential ingredient of this project: glue.

Figuring Bram would be respectful enough to take this minor flaw into consideration as he played with it (ha!), and seeing that it was almost midnight and I still hadn't blown up any balloons yet, I left it as is, covered the thing with about fifty sheets of grey, recycled tissue paper and tied the biggest bow possible around it. It wasn't pretty. It looked like an enormous pile of paper maché with a red bow tied around it. But it was what was on the inside that counted, right? I hoped Bram would see it that way too...

Hanging the decorations in the dark was a challenge, but I managed to make the place look festive without waking the kids or breaking my neck. It was just after midnight when I finally fell asleep, which by my standards, was about the equivalent of an all-nighter.

This morning, Mia was up first, and was able to contain her own enthusiasm by not unwrapping the mysterious grey lump.

Obviously, she knew it was what was on the inside that counted.

When the birthday boy finally emerged from his bed, it took him all of thirty seconds to realize the place was decorated for his benefit. One of the perks of turning three, I think, is that you are finally aware you're turning three.

Half asleep and rather wobbly, he saw his present. He, also, was aware that something exciting was on the inside. He managed to unwrap it (with Mia's help, naturally) and squeals of delight filled the room.

One of the basic needs of a Mom was satisfied: my kid was happy.

As you can guess, the brandy-new, gorgeous, German-made, wooden, three-level parking garage was exactly as sturdy as I made it - so, not very. Without the levels actually attached to the base with glue, the thing came apart about twenty times in as many minutes. But the kids caught on quick, and before long, they were putting it back together by slotting the little pegs back into their holes themselves! It became a puzzle garage!
Bram loved it, and will love keep on loving it, whether I stick it together with glue or not.

Mission accomplished.

One valuable mommyhood lesson learned: there's something to say about not following the directions - isn't that what they call, 'thinking outside the box' (even if it is by accident)? Or perhaps I just learned, once again, about the amazing adaptability of children. We grown-ups should take notes.

In any case, that old plastic garage is officially become redundant, and has a date with a garbage bag, as soon as I type the last word of this post.