Saturday, April 27, 2013

Night of the Plastic Apple

"Dad," my daughter said one night after we finished dinner, "will you help me with my apple puzzle?"

I stopped in mid step on my way to the task I anticipated doing that evening. It was at least a little bit urgent. If it didn't happen that night I wasn't sure it would get done on time.

I glanced at my daughter looking hopefully at me, and then at the clear plastic bag in her hand that contained a number of red transparent bits of plastic. This was not something that had to be done that night. If it were homework or something like that....

As I looked up into my daughter's face, prepared to deliver the rejection as softly as I could, all of the lessons, talks, admonitions, MormonAds, parenting articles, etc. to which I had ever been exposed pressed themselves into the forefront of my consciousness. "Sure," I heard myself saying.

Moments later I sat next to my daughter with a jumble of red plastic arrayed on a TV tray. I glanced at the instructions. "How hard can this be?" I thought to myself. There were only 44 pieces. I figured that I'd spend 15-20 minutes with my daughter and then be off to my own project.

We discovered the first five pieces without too much difficulty. I smiled as my daughter snapped them into place. Pieces six and seven were more challenging. We looked at the illustrations on the instructions, but none of the pieces looked quite right.

After a few minutes I sensed that this 44-piece puzzle was more challenging that I had assumed. "Where did you get this?" I queried. My daughter reminded me that she had received it at the extended family Christmas gift exchange. If she had had the puzzle for 3½ months, why did it need to be completed that night? "Besides," I groused to myself, "who gives this kind of thing to a kid her age?"

But my daughter seemed to be enjoying herself. Bit by bit we came closer to finishing the first half of the apple. 21 of the pieces had an identical twin, so constructing the second half was a simple matter of building the first half in reverse.

The second half was much easier, but not nearly as easy as I had supposed. Eventually we quit looking at the illustrations on the instructions and confined ourselves to looking for pieces that appeared to match the necessary shape and end connectors.

Finally my daughter snapped the final piece of the puzzle into place. Her face glowed. She jumped up and gave me a (too) tight hug, before running off to show her apple to other family members.

I looked up at the clock. About and hour and a half had passed. "Am I really that bad at puzzles?" I thought to myself. True, I have never been very good at 3D puzzles, but this thing had only 44 pieces. The evening was gone. It was almost time to gather the family for our nightly devotional and bedtime routine.

My project would not get done that night. But as my daughter cheerily bounced back into the family room with the completed puzzle in her hand, I knew that it was all worth it. After all, she will never be this age again. And I'm sure that someday I will miss the days when she was willing to come to me to ask for my help with a toy.

1 comment:

trgrant said...

Good for you. I have usually answered "no," before I get the images of MormonAds and Conference talks rushing through my head.