Micromanaging and Micro Machines
Remember Micro Machines? Of course you do, if you were a kid in the late 80s and early 90s. I had a pretty massive collection and some pretty amazing playsets that I often set up with my HO train set (we can just ignore the obvious scale issues there). How about Star Wars Micro Machines? Remember those? For a while, I was relentlessly visiting Walmart and Toys R Us to find the latest vehicle set, or even better, saving some money for one of the convertible helmets or character heads that would turn into a scene from one of the movies. Kind of like this old commercial.
I also still remember how I would set up the different locations based on which movie they were in, and I would display the little figurines in mid scene on my nicely manicured bedroom shelves. Then, I went to college and got married, and all of my Micro Machine sets were relegated to a box in my parents basement until they finally handed them over and essentially said "we're done, these are your problem now."
They were never really a problem, though. I mean, a storage problem maybe, but I kept them because I loved those Star Wars Micro Machines perhaps more than any other toys I owned. Countless hours of my childhood can be attributed to those tiny starships and the even tinier figures that went with them. I did not keep those toys just because I loved them, however. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking about the future and how one day I would have children of my own who would maybe, probably, really love playing with these toys too.
Enter my own children. Within the past year or so, I have busted all of the Star Wars Micro Machines out of their dusty storage bin and lugged them up to my son's room. He was thrilled. Actually, thrilled might be an understatement. The kid was doing dances around our storage room and shouting "yippee" like a young Anakin Skywalker. And he has loved those Micro Machines (as has our dog, unfortunately...). In fact, my son, and now my daughter too, have loved these toys so much that they get pulled in and out of their storage drawer multiple times a week, with the result that the collection now sits haphazardly throughout their rooms or in a drawer. Kind of like the picture below.
Here begins, however, a disconnect that my pre-children, young adult brain never even conceived. My son and daughter don't play with my Micro Machines like I played with them. How dare they, right? How dare my son pile all of these playsets and vehicles and figures in a random disrespectful heap? Are you telling me that Endor Leia on a Speeder Bike is flying around the Dune Sea near Jabba's Palace? Never! Please don't tell me that some of the sets have broken or lost pieces or are completely irreparable? Sorry friend, it's true and it hurts.
I tried for a while. I tried to keep things in their proper spot or keep sets thematically together, or any number of ridiculous and futile attempts to micromanage my kids with my own preferences. Eventually, I had to give up. What is the purpose of sharing something I love with my children if I am just going to tell them how to love it? I so badly wanted to manage their play and to relive the way I liked to have everything neatly and thematically displayed that I ignored their joy for far too long.
And what happened the moment I let go? Joy for me too. Joy at watching both of the kids use their imagination to create new scenes and new stories. Just the other day, I was playing with them on the Stormtrooper set that transforms into the trash compactor scene on the Death Star. Who showed up to save Luke, Leia, and Han from certain doom? Young Lando Calrissian of course! Not only do I get the joy of watching my kids create their own stories, but I also now experience the joy of claiming something I loved as their own, without my stuffy rules or micromanaged scenarios. In the end, we all play happier, and I have a healthier attitude about parenting and micromanaging beyond the micro machines.
I admit that I do still cringe every time I open that drawer though...
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