I have never enjoyed jigsaw puzzles.
I remember one year for Christmas, when I was maybe ten or eleven, my grandmother bought me one. It had 500 pieces and featured a windmill sitting in a field of yellow tulips under a cloudless blue sky.
I hated that thing. I don’t think it ever did get assembled. Stupid sky. Stupid tulips.
If I like a picture, I’ll buy a print. And hang it on the wall. I will not buy it when it’s broken into 500… or 1000… or more, because people are insane… pieces.
My kids do not share my aversion.
From a very early age, they enjoyed puzzles. So I gritted my teeth and bought them some. I wouldn’t help them, though. Helping children with puzzles is ridiculous, in my opinion. How will they ever learn how to do them if there is always an adult to bail them out?
Besides, I learned very early on that helping children with puzzles is the most frustrating way a puzzle-hating adult can spend their time.
“The pieces with one flat edge always go on the outside. No, the outside. No, flat sides always have to touch. No, you can’t beat them into submission if they don’t fit right away it’s not the right piece stop that OH FAH GAH I CAN’T EVEN HEADSPLOSION!!!”
So instead, I tell myself that letting them figure it out on their own is helping develop their spatial relationship ability and manual dexterity. And then I get as far away from the activity as I possibly can.
The dayhome kids are also all fascinated with puzzles. However, they are not all good at puzzles, which leads me to this week.
Pixie has developed a fascination with a 24-piece puzzle. It features Winnie-the-Pooh standing on a Heffalump’s trunk to reach a beehive. She runs for it as soon as she arrives, dumps it out, and quickly assembles the main features. She then fiddles with the tree & grass pieces for UP TO NINETY MINUTES. Seriously. Yesterday she fought with it for so long that she burst into tears. “Pixie,” I said gently, “maybe it’s time to do something else for a while”. The quiet sobbing immediately turned into full-volume high-pitched wailing. I finally bent my no-puzzle-helping rule to give her a hand. “I DID IT!” she yelled, thrilled… then took the christly thing apart and said “I’m doin’ it AGAIN!!”
You just can’t help some people.
Today she’s spent half the time here building the same puzzle. There were no tears today, until I suggested that she get down out of the chair and play a game or something – then we had the meltdown again. So whatever. It’s Friday. If she wants to spend the entire day fiddling with that puzzle, so be it.
And then there’s Louis.
With his favourite playmate occupied with puzzles, he figured he should have one, too. Puzzles are awesome! Clearly. He chose one with 24 pieces.
Which was totally beyond him. He couldn’t even find two pieces that went together. I took it away and replaced with a 15-piece. Nope, still no good. Finally went to a 12-piece that is just Thomas the Tank Engine’s big dorky face. And the pieces are huge – a good four inches across each.
He’s been working on it now for TWO DAYS.
He just can’t figure it out. After a solid day of effort, he managed to put together the actual facial features, but the outline of the train is totally defeating him.
It’s both incredibly frustrating, and also quietly validating, because I said all along that not everyone can do puzzles, DAD.
In the meantime, though, I really want this cold snap to end. We’ve been trapped indoors all week, and it shows. Cabin fever is a real thing, and we’ve all got it.
Is it spring yet?