Lego, Consumerism and Christmas

Image CC by j.reed via Flickr

My son Luke turned twelve in November, and all he asked for was money to buy his coveted items in the Lego catalog. I have a problem with this consumeristic tendency of my offspring. Does he need more Legos? No. Does he want them? Oh, yes.

When Luke was younger he would occasionally convince random family members to buy him a little Lego toy here and there whenever they took him out. They’re cheap and he’s so happy and thankful. I put a stop to that telling him that he could only receive gifts (Lego or otherwise) at his birthday and Christmas. And if he secretly got things from people, then I would be sure to forbid any Lego presents at those holiday times. Knowing that the big, expensive sets came then, he quickly changed his begging ways. He started saving the catalogs instead.

At first this seemed like an improvement, but Luke would spend his free moments dreaming of all the Lego items he wanted. His stack of Lego “magazines” (really just advertisements of upcoming products) grew, and his mind was filled with the desire to have stuff. I was unsettled because I once did the same thing: keeping around catalogs of things I could never afford, circling, even cutting out my favorite items…for what? I was an adult, and when someone asked me what I wanted for the holidays I always asked for something practical that we could use as a family. But I secretly wanted to buy, buy, buy like many Americans.

One day I just threw out all the catalogs. I didn’t like that part of myself. If I needed something, I would remember it, I didn’t need a visually happy model showing me what I was lacking. I don’t miss them. Oh, I’ll flip through a Harry and David catalog and dream of trying all that yummy food. Gaiam is filled with sustainable stuff, still just stuff. I told my son he could only keep the latest catalog in the house. The rest would be recycled. He was upset; it was a fun pastime to dream of getting things, and Legos are his favorite things. But he did it. (I later found out a grandma took a few for him to keep at her house…)

His room is filled with Legos; no other toy comes close to his obsession with the products. But he uses them. They are not things that are purchased and then sit idle in a drawer. He makes stop motion animation with them, creates action set-ups to photograph, he engineers awesome contraptions and creatures constantly. Plus, there are much worse ways to spend free time than actively building something. And is it that much different than buying my daughter cloth and sewing supplies on a regular basis? I know I cannot change the lust for things; it’s a losing battle in our world. But I can set limits, and encourage using our things for creative purposes.

So, for Luke’s birthday my husband and I gave him BrickJournal– a non-Lego sponsored magazine. Its pages are about people using Legos (bricks) as art, or in education, or how to build really awesome designs with the bricks you already own. When he had his party with friends, he asked for money to buy Legos. With that money he bought several Christmas-themed sets and the advent calendar. Our piano looks festive and cute. He has daily excitement from his calendar. And he’s so happy and thankful; it’s hard to complain.

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