I Really Need These Lego Robots to Stop Blackmailing Me

Why can't you all just be nicer, like this guy?

Why can’t you all just be nicer, like this guy?

Island Packet — If it wasn’t for all the blackmail, sign-ups for this Lego Robotics team would be going pretty well.

It’s not a problem with Legos (which my 10-year-old and I love) or extracurricular activities (which are good) or robots (which are mostly good, with the obvious exceptions of Siri, the Matrix, Mechagodzilla and those little red ones that claim to vacuum your house but are hopelessly baffled by stairs). No, it’s a problem with humans, and the pressures they create. Because my son’s Lego Robotics team currently lacks one key component: a coach. And I’ve been warned that without a coach the team will be canceled, deleted, become as hopeless as a Roomba trying to reach a second floor.

This, of course, is bad. Obviously I don’t want my son to miss out on extracurricular Lego camp, for two reasons: 1. His is a mechanical, engineering-oriented brain that would benefit from such imaginative exploration, and 2. It represents several weekly 90-minute blocks that he’d be out of the house, and thus not asking me endless questions about dragons while I’m working.

But — and there’s really no way around this — I can’t coach a Lego team. There, I said it. Yet the emails about my son’s team needing a coach have gone from gently encouraging to increasingly insistent to essentially bulletins from a shattered dystopian future where there are no Lego Robotics teams, or, if I’m reading this right, human joy. “If we are unable to find a parent coach THESE TEAMS WILL BE DISBANDED and refunds will be issued,” reads a typical email.

Now, look. I don’t like being pressured, particularly in all capital letters. Peer pressure is BAD, according to most of the filmstrips we watched in health class. But peer pressure is nothing compared to another kind of pressure, Other Parent Pressure, which is very much what I am getting about the Lego Robotics team right now in the email window.


Other Parent: “LEGO ROBOTICS TEAM COACH! Oh you have to do this.”

Me: “I know, I’d love to, but I really can’t.”


Me: “I can’t! And it’s robots! Name one topic I know less about than robotics!”

Other Parent Who Is Clearly Starting to Enjoy Herself and Smirking When She Writes: “You don’t have to ‘know’ anything except how happy it would make your son!”

Me, Unable to Stop Imagining My First-Born Beaming With Pride at His Father’s Skillful Direction of a Class of Aspiring Architects: “STOP MAKING ME CONSIDER THIS.” (Jeez, everyone in this story uses all caps a lot.)

Other Parent Who Is Inconveniently Making Me Confront My Own Latent Wish To Do This: (obnoxious smiley face)


Other Parent Who Is Clearly Destroying Me in This Argument: (five repeated obnoxious smiley faces)

Me: (Nothing, because I don’t know how to write comebacks in emoji)


If anyone ever asks you to describe parenting, it’s basically that: Spending entire afternoons encouraging your son’s interests, spending money so he can play with toys he currently owns, experiencing volunteer-based extortion, joking with parent-friends in similar predicaments and ending up feeling genuinely guilty that you’re not able to dedicate six hours a week — a time you are at a full-time job — to teach small strangers material you cannot hope to understand. Also you get into occasional emoji fights.


Related, sort of



Because there’s no part of me that actually wants to coach this team, except for all of me, because obviously I do. Of course I want to participate, lead, shape, contribute, support my child’s interests and (non-dragon-related) activities. And if the only hangup is that there’s no time available to do so, that I’d need to rend space and fracture time to add impossible hours into a day, well how hard can that be? Don’t other parents do that all the time?





About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

6 responses to “I Really Need These Lego Robots to Stop Blackmailing Me

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