I hate doing puzzles.
Wyatt also hates doing them.
Marc, on the other hand, loves doing puzzles. Wyatt and I have tried doing puzzles with Marc, and his puzzle love has not rubbed-off on us. We’ve tried puzzling with Marc individually and together, and at no time was the activity fun. I mean, Marc had fun, but I think that’s because he loves doing puzzles and enjoys spending time with us.
After one of my attempts at working on a puzzle with Marc (it ended in my reading my phone and doing a couple of rounds of knitting), he suggested that maybe I didn’t really like doing puzzles. I admitted to him that I didn’t. I also told him that I knew it was weird, because I’m supposed to like doing puzzles. After all, it’s an easy, fun, low-tech, classic activity where you can visit with people and work on a project together. Despite (because of?) all those charming qualities, I found them kind of annoying. He basically gave me a slightly sad shrug as he fitted in another piece, and I gave myself a pass to stop pretending to do puzzles anymore.
This weekend, though, Wyatt discovered that St. Nicholas had brought him a 100-piece magnetic puzzle of the world. You’d think St. Nick would have known better than to give that kind of gift. “I have NO IDEA why St. Nicholas gave me this annoying present. He should know I HATE DOING PUZZLES,” Wyatt groaned as he flopped onto the sofa. The things I could say in response ran through my head in quick succession. Things along the lines of, “You should be grateful you got anything!” Or, “Maybe St. Nicholas lost track of the date until he was at Whole Foods and did his best under the circumstances!” Or even the totally optimistic lie, “You’ll grow to like puzzles if you keep trying them!” But instead, I said, “You know, I bet he gave you that puzzle because you’re working on continents at school, and when you’re done with the puzzle, you’ll have a MAP!” “He could have just given me a MAP INSTEAD,” Wyatt retorted.
Right. And what was I thinking foisting my wish for puzzle love on a kid who hates them, too? It occurred to me that he would have preferred the ugly cactus Christmas tree ornament on the “Last Minute Gifts!” table instead of a map that required assembly.
I sighed, “Yeah, I totally know what you mean. I hate doing puzzles, too.” Wyatt was still frowning deeply, as he did his best to become one with the sofa. I went on, sort of distracted as I cleaned-up the lunch dishes, “I have an idea. We both hate doing puzzles, right? I wonder what would happen if we did this puzzle together. Do you think two people hating doing puzzles would mean we’d extra hate doing this one? Or would the outcome be different? I have no idea. Should we find out?” He said, “Two people hating puzzles would mean they extra hate it doing it together. That’s OBVIOUS.” “Maybe,” I said, “or maybe not.”
Later in the afternoon, when Wyatt and Marc had returned from getting their hair cut, Wyatt called to me from the kitchen. “Hey, Mom. Do you want to help separate these puzzle pieces into edges and middle pieces?”
How could I decline an invitation from my fellow puzzle hater to start working on a puzzle? “I’ll be right there,” I said.
We did the puzzle without stopping. The whole time, we talked about how IN GENERAL, we HATE doing puzzles. They’re so annoying and boring! But this one? We hated it less. Why? Who knows! Maybe because it stuck to the side of the refrigerator? We pieced together South America, Africa, ocean, and we mused some more. Maybe we didn’t hate doing puzzles with each other? Maybe we LIKED doing puzzles with each other. Maybe it was too early to tell? Wyatt remarked how sorry he was he had said “the mean things” about the puzzle earlier, because they weren’t actually true. I gave him one of those verbal shrugs as we kept working, and then I said, “I think this project is just one of those things that reminds us we always have a chance to change our mind, any day, any time.”
Sometimes it’s best to embrace the fickle.