I’m not sure how I dodged this essential parenting rite of passage for so long, but somehow this Christmas, my daughter’s fourth year leaving out cookies and Scotch, was the first time I had to assemble a toy.
On that fateful morning, I re-heated my second cup of coffee, waved off my husband’s help and cracked open the box. I was so innocent, so care free, so confident in my adult abilities to follow basic instructions.
Once you poke your eyes back in your skull after rolling them hard at my naiveté, you might recognize the following stages of emotions I perspired through over the next hour.
Cool! Yes! When was the last time I put stuff together? Never! I am always the passer of tools, the snack provider, the observer, the holder, the spotter, or the one whispering “careful” as nails got hammered into too-small Ikea holes. Today I am the Chief Assembler. Look out world, Queen Awesome is snipping plastic from cardboard, unfurling paperwork, and ready to rule!
Okay, well that didn't really match the Step 1-3 pictures, but this MUST be what they mean. I didn’t hear the "clicking" noise they insist would happen, but that low moan coming from my throat when a patch of thumb skin got nicked might have muffled it. My coffee is cold and piles of plastic surround my cramped legs, but the kid is waiting ever so patiently, so I will just have to power through. Laying the big bones down of any project is the hardest—the next steps will be breezy!
What the fuck does Step 4 (a happy face being shoved through a hole) even mean? You know what would be cool, Instructions Editors? WORDS. I do really well with words.And why does the next step show the roof scallops upside down when they clearly cannot be put on that way unless I flip the whole toy upside down and pretend this is an art piece from the WTF FAO Schwartz Collection. Breathe. Okay. Maybe if I re-heat my coffee (again) and stare harder at these hieroglyphics, some clarity will come.
There are pieces missing? You have got to be kidding me. Where is the box? WHERE IS THE GODDAMN BOX? Bang it against the wall so that anything hiding inside will come skulking out. Has the fucking box already been thrown out? I JUST sat down again and the tiny pieces that needed to be painstakingly inserted into microscopic holes are gone and there is no dog to blame this on. I cannot believe I will now have to scrape all this pink plastic bullshit into a grey plastic bag and stand in a long line to dump it on the Returns Counter with a defeated, “Stuff is missing and I hate this. Please give me a refund so I can go buy a dog.”
I start to sway in a slow seated Mom dance as I round the last corner of the instructions. Feeling good, feeling grea... oh no. The last line of instructions states the tiny flowers used to decorate the outside walls can only be inserted on one side of the plastic.
I did it backwards.
That was the first step.
RED. RED. EVERYWHERE. THERE IS NO MAMA, ONLY ZUUL.
Fuck this toy. Fuck every pink plastic piece and its Mom.
The only reason it wasn’t punted clean off the deck is that both of my legs were asleep and I couldn’t get up. My coffee, still untouched, was cold again, just like my dead heart.
Not even the hope in my daughter’s eyes was enough to calm me down enough to start over.
I hobbled away and breathed in through my nose, out my mouth. Slammed some coffee and chocolate balls while hiding in the kitchen from my failure.
My husband fixed the walls and my kid merrily played with the toy for about 3.5 minutes until she moved onto the next toy, declaring it her “favorite!”