When my son was young, he loved to play with Legos. This went on for years. First it was the large size, to prevent swallowing, and as time progressed, the pieces became increasingly smaller, and as you’ve probably noticed, increasingly expensive. I was the parent who was charged with playing and constructing and solving the architectural challenges of creating the machines, houses, and people with intricate combinations of color-coded interlocking blocks.

My wife was vacuuming, and I heard a loud clinking sound in the metal tube. I interrupted the cleanup and asked if she knew that she was vacuuming up the Legos. “Sure. I am tired of stepping on them in the middle of the night!” She was right, of course. It was not her job to clean up after the “boys;” it was ours. So I took it on and became the keeper of the Legos. Whenever I found a stray, I would place it in a bowl reserved just for that purpose. Even when my son and I were most diligent, some pieces seemed to migrate from the construction site under the stairs up into the playroom, even down to the basement. When I tried to get my son to take on this responsibility, he would assure me that he would. However, I resolved to be his back-up man. I seldom asked him to help but would begin to pick-up after our play together and even after his solitary play. I did this because it worked. We had the right pieces when we needed to build something because fewer pieces were lost.

I didn’t have to fight that ugly battle of trying to dictate my son’s behavior. We did not power-struggle over something that had multiple avenues for solution. And best of all, I too found that in the darkness of a midnight wakeup, I was less likely to pierce my foot with one of those easily missed pieces.