How many Lego pieces can you handle?

The Lego Mania starts something like this: You stumble over a Lego box the size of a small car in your living room two weeks after Christmas.

1,490 pieces of complicated machinery.
Oh, and some Legos.

“Are you ever going to start this?” you screech.

This is your first mistake. Prepare for dinner on your lap because the kit will now be “in progress” on the dining room table for the next week. You will soon see how unappetizing a kit of 1,490 pieces truly is.

You’ll be tempted to get it over all at once, to rip it off like a Band-Aid. Careful now. If you kick-start the Lego project, you become Project Manager. The kids will expect you to lead the initiative on Bags 1, 2 and 3. Keep your distance. Better to threaten to return it than threaten to start it.

One night the wind will change. And the kids will insist they want to do it. All of it. Tonight. At 7pm on a Saturday. A little thrill will roll through you. Let’s blow the doors off, you think. What a cool memory, the night you stayed up until midnight doing that magnificent Christmas Village with three Lego trees, a chandelier and a plastic cat walking the railing of the upstairs bedroom.

You haven’t felt this young in years. You dump the contents on the table because you can’t help yourself. You elbow one child in the face to keep him from opening Bag 2. But they insist. He is looking for the gold: 8 pairs of legs.

By 7:15pm: The figurines are all built. And you’ve got so many damn pieces of plastic on offer that you’ll never notice the one that slid under the fridge until page 46.

The new Lego people are off on a merry adventure with the children. In other parts of the house, in formerly glorious Lego sets brought to life in past Christmases.

“Come help me!” you scream. But you don’t look up. You can’t. You are this close to finding that black piece with a hook, two studs and one hole.

You stay on the worksite alone. You’re ok with this at first. It gives you a little time to get organized, review the booklet, determine your attack. Also, it looks like the first dozen pages you can whip off and save about an hour of agony, if only they’ll stay gone for a few minutes.

You complete the sled, the cart, the outhouse, two wreaths and a lamppost. About the time you attempt the multi-layered roof on the back half of the house, they’ll want in.

“Um, it’s complicated,” you’ll say. “Let me just…”

“It’s mine, Mom!”

Here, they’ll wrench a white slate plastic roof from your hands, one of your finest creations of 2013. For a moment your hands tighten, then you let go.

“Fine,” you say, anyway, your neck is shaped like a 2-stud by 3-stud L-shaped Lego needed for the window overhang.

But you don’t get to the kitchen sink before they need you.

“Mom, help me!”

So it begins. You’ll never finish tonight. But it will be OK. It will be a week’s worth of time with your head bent near theirs. A time for discussing which shade of grey the book actually means. Time for marveling over who expected an 8-year-old to follow this as the 38-year-old is having some trouble. Time for you to convince the kids that an improv chimney with one yellow piece is better than moving the fridge.

In the end, you’ll have a compact 1,490-piece village that they’ll play with for precisely three days before abandoning altogether.

But you’ll have spent a week side-by-side, happy, united with a common goal. At some point, your husband will make you promise never to buy another Lego set again. At another point, you will promise. Later still, you’ll buy another set and do it all over again.

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