Philosophy, Lego and why Flea is a lot sad.

Image: Flickr
I studied philosophy for two years as part of my degree. Once, I was in an exam where the compulsory essay question was: “I say the curtains are red. What do I mean?”

Even as a slightly pretentious 19-year-old, I remember thinking someone, somewhere was having a laugh at our expense. I thought philosophy had no practical application in real life. But, as it turns out, I was wrong.

Only today, I found myself considering the conflict between two central ideas of moral philosophy: the utilitarian school of thought that moral value is to be found in the consequences of actions, versus the categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant, who said actions can have no moral value if your motives aren’t right.

I pondered this philosophical question as my four-year-old called to me from the top of the stairs: “In THAT case Mummy, I think you have made me a LOT sad.”

The cause of this immense sadness was that I’d bought Flea a new Lego toy today after school, as a treat because she got an amazing report from her teacher. It was a Toy Story car, with figures, and she wanted to put it together the very moment we got home. Unfortunately, I had to cook dinner, so I asked her to go and play while I put the pasta on to cook, then I’d help.

Five minutes later, I found my daughter sitting on the floor, surrounded by approximately 500 pieces of Lego, in tears. “Buzz Lightyear’s head isn’t here Mummy and I definitely haven’t touched it,” she sobbed, thereby confirming that she not only touched it, she probably also threw it somewhere while making Buzz fly. Scrabbling around on the floor, I noticed there were only three tyres for the car, too.

Fifteen minutes of searching didn’t turn up the tiny pieces, so I took the box back. I’m not a shouter, but I explained to Flea that I knew she hadn't done anything deliberately wrong, but she hadn’t done as she was asked, she had been careless with her new toy, and I wasn’t inclined to give it to her just now.

There were big eyes. There was a trembling lip. There was even a whispered, “I love you Mummy, more than the whole world and everything in it.”

“Well, I understand you’re disappointed but I’d like you to understand how important it is not to be careless with your toys,” I said.

So there was stalking from the room and a loud declaration of her complete sadness, followed by 15 minutes of noisy weeping in her bedroom.

I was deeply concerned, of course, but hid the pain by taking the opportunity to watch an episode of True Blood. When I went upstairs to say goodnight, Flea told me that she was very sorry and she wouldn’t be careless if I let her take one of the Lego figures to bed with her.

I decided, on reflection, Flea didn't intentionally lose the figures, and meant well, even if her plan went awry, so she's curled up now with a 2-inch high Lego Woody. And let's face it, even Kant wouldn't be able to resist a four-year-old in dinosaur pyjamas.


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 30th April 2010 / 8:01 am

    Hope Woody doesn’t disappear in the night! I remember my brother and I were always losing Lego around the house, usually in a place where it was just waiting to be trodden on by a barefooted parent. Well done to Flea for getting such a good report!

  2. Rachael
    30th April 2010 / 10:12 am

    That is probably one of the cutest things I’ve ever read and I’m not sure that that was supposed to be my reaction!

  3. 30th April 2010 / 12:46 pm

    I hate it when I’ve told them off and they tell me they love me. Makes me feel like a heel everytime. Not that I stop being cross with them of course, then I just feel cross and guilty.

  4. 30th April 2010 / 4:22 pm

    I did a philosophy degree too. I’ve found it surprisingly useful for motherhood. There’s an awful lot of arguing involved, and I have pretty well honed arguing skills.
    PS I’m extremely jealous of Flea. I’ve been coveting Toy Story Lego for ages…

  5. 30th April 2010 / 8:57 pm

    I’ve found the negotiation theory I learned in the “EU and Negotiation in the New Europe” module of my Politics degree particularly useful for getting my way both at work and with my daughter!
    Never give away your bottom line…

  6. 30th April 2010 / 9:00 pm

    I know it’s easily done but when it’s a vital piece it’s so annoying! ARGH. And yes, she’s a little star, I was very proud of her.

  7. 30th April 2010 / 9:02 pm

    Yeah, except Flea’s got it almost down to a reflex now – if I so much as raise an eyebrow I get, “I LOVE YOU” – she ups the ante the crosser she thinks I am!

  8. 30th April 2010 / 9:02 pm

    Yes, I must admit the year of logic studies has been pretty handy in adult life!
    Toy Story lego is good, but Star Wars is better.

  9. Susie
    1st May 2010 / 7:20 pm

    I’m sorry, but I chuckled cause I was glad it was not me.
    I have found that over the years I have mellowed immensely. Where with my older kids (now 18 and 19) I was anal about their toys and pieces and order, now I really don’t care much.
    If the younger ones lose a piece or ruin something especially after they have been told, I say it’s so sad that you lost it, ruined it, you need to be careful with your toys….

  10. Nikki
    1st May 2010 / 10:27 pm

    Love it Sally. I still remember one of my essay titles too: “What are we today, discuss” – hmmm. If I was to answer that today, it would have being very different to my answer (social constructionism) then. Kids change every aspect of your life don’t they? Their inevitable cuteness helps to bend your rules too….Got to be a good thing sometimes right – and most enjoyable too LOL.

  11. 1st May 2010 / 11:39 pm

    I’m a bit of a tidy freak, I just can’t help it. And maybe it’s cos I have one, but I’ve just never been okay with kids breaking toys. I think it’s about respect – I expect Flea to respect her belongings and other people’s. She’ll almost certainly rebel and be a completely chaotic teenager!

  12. 1st May 2010 / 11:40 pm

    Ah, the curtains one was epistology, if I remember correctly. Happy days.

  13. 2nd May 2010 / 8:49 am

    Oh, bless the girl. How charmingly self-incriminatory!
    A large Woody (toy! toy!) has recently taken up residence here and is proving immensely popular. There was a cheery assortment of ‘Someone’s poisoned the waterhole!’, ‘Draw!’ and ‘There’s a snake in my boot!’ emanating from H’s bedroom at some unearthly hour last night.
    Of course, I was vaguely puzzled about the sudden resurgence of all-things-Toy-Story, until I realised that #3 was in the offing!