by Christy Gualtieri
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the less you pay for a child’s toy, the more pieces there will be for you to have to put together yourself.
My son’s birthday was last week, and my husband and I had to get cracking. So we rallied and hunkered down to assemble a toy we’d thought he’d love: a play kitchen, which all of his friends have at their houses. Pre-assembly, though, there was a lot to be desired. The kitchen came in a box with all of its roughly 1,456,234 pieces of plastic connected to each other, so not only did you have to screw and snap them into place, you also had to cut them out first…using wire cutters. Each individual piece also could be found on separate sheets of plastic, so finding them was impossible.
It took, in a word, forever. As I snapped pieces off and my husband cursed at the absurdity of so many screws and so many pieces, one thought kept me going: the end result. Surely, my son would be overjoyed at his dream realized – that no longer would he have to resort to playing at a fake kitchen at friend’s houses, but he’d have one of his very own! He too could stand at this make-believe stove and talk on the make-believe cell phone* and warm up his make-believe croissants. As I cut out the thousandth piece of plastic, I daydreamed that he would become so attached to the play kitchen that his skin would become tallow from lack of sunlight, since he’d never want to leave it. He’d want to bring it to bed with him, grasping onto it as we carried him upstairs to his room, screaming after it the way one screams after a loved one at a funeral. And because it took us so long to assemble it, I presumed his devotion would last for years (or at least until age 5, which is the maximum appropriate age of enjoyment, as per the box).
As the night wore on, I tried not to think of the more probable scenario: that he’d enjoy having it; he’d play with it for a while, and then make a beeline for our back door, to get a few more minutes of playing outdoors until it was time for bed.
Instead, I thought of how sometimes, I feel snapped, like life was too quick with its wire cutters and how I go around scratching those around me when I just want to be loved. I thought about the moments when I felt my life would never be properly assembled; about the worries I have about whether or not my life would appear “finished” to the people around me. I wondered if I would ever really feel “put together” – not just physically, but emotionally.
In the end, I think of myself pretty much resembling the play kitchen when we were done with it. It was decent looking, not too tall, and some pieces were sharper than others. The doors didn’t shut smoothly, but that didn’t stop my son from loving it. He didn’t compare it to his friends’ play kitchens; didn’t complain that it wasn’t the top-of-the-line. He loved it! And true enough, he knew how to let go when it was time to go to bed.
All in all, it was completely worth it. I hope that when my time on Earth is finished and I’m “fully assembled,” I’ll feel just the same way.
* I don’t know why this play kitchen came with its own cell phone. It also came with a “CD-player” decal. I’ll leave it at that.
Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at openthoseojos.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!