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They say you shouldn’t compare…

As I type this, my son, J is playing on his Wii. He is playing Harry Potter Lego, Years 5 – 7. Prior to that, he tried watching the movie Cars but could not locate one of his race cars from the movie to recreate the opening race scene, so he moved on.

Well, actually, I should clarify. HE did not look for the car. HE asked ME to find it. And that was not the first car he asked me to find. The first one he asked me to find was, after searching through ALL of his cars, under the little collectors book of Cars, on the floor. When I pointed out that it was literally under his nose, he said, “Silly, Mommy” as if I was the one who lost it in the first place.

Before the Cars loss, J was playing on his Leapster Explorer. A toy which had gone missing for a while. We hid it from him because he was having trouble with the volume on it and would get so frustrated that he couldn’t make it louder and then throw it across the room. Or my car. So, it took a little hiatus, hidden in a cabinet in the kitchen where things go to rest, or where we put things we don’t want the kids to get. He had been playing it for a while earlier today too but I asked him to turn it off because we had an open house at his school before the first day tomorrow. So, he took an hour long pause before immediately turning it back on as soon as we got in the car on the way home from school.

So, why am I telling you all this?

Today is a rainy day. We have been stuck at home most of the day because I am waiting for a delivery. Earlier in the day when my 5 year old daughter was home with us, she played on the computer for a while. But, when it was time to get off and get ready for her day, although she did need a bit of coaxing, she got dressed, did her hair and we brushed her teeth. After she was all primped, she asked me to play with her. Most of the time she asks me to¬† “play princesses” or “puppies” which is not in my top ten all time fun things to do. She knows this though and informed me that we didn’t have to play either of those things. That we could look for something else to do. We have a ton of board games that barely got any use on J’s go around. (They never really interested him much. Either they took too long and he would lose interest or they involved a clear winner and loser and he has a very hard time losing or coming in last.) So, we pilfered through the toy cabinets looking for a game.

As we got to playing Go Fish, I began to realize just how much joy I got from playing this simple game. I was laughing. My daughter was learning a new game. I had to remind her of the rules and she would giggle when she realized her mistake. She would correct and look at me for approval. Even telling me that if someone gave you the card, “you have to say thank you.” In essence, expanding on my teaching her, but letting her teach me her rules too. Unfortunately, after a little while we had to wrap it up. I had to take her someplace. But I did not want to stop. I wanted to play that Go Fish game with her forever.

Those of you with kids like J probably have had the same moment with your typical child, if you have one. Or maybe with another kid you know. The moment where things, play, just comes easy. Where there is no trying to get or keep their attention. Not having to ask them to sit back down over and over so you can play the game. Not asking where they are going and if they’re done playing with you. Not knowing if you are playing the game together, or just facilitating their playing the way they want to play, regardless of rules or lessons.

With my daughter, there was an ease about it. A connection. A back and forth fluidity to the play. There was a give and a take where we both benefited from spending time together. Where you feel, as a parent that you are contributing something to your child’s life! Something they will remember or grow from.

It is difficult for J to express what he wants. Last month he made it very clear that he wanted to get his Green Belt in Tae Kwon Do. He did this by asking me constantly when he was going to get said green belt. Not by expressing, “I want to test this month for my green belt, mom. I think I’m ready.” It’s all on me to interpret the signs and help him figure out how to achieve that goal. I am rarely let into his head to know what he is thinking. When he is “plugged in” no one can reach him. I often think about getting rid of his Wii or Nook or my iPad but when I have done that in the past, there is such backlash. He melts down. He tantrums. And most of the time when he does, he doesn’t really recover. He then asks constantly when he can have them back. No matter what answer I give him, he asks “Forever?”. I can’t get through to him. He doesn’t hear.

With my daughter, I can reason. She tells me what she wants or how she needs my help. She often defaults to J’s behavior to try to get things but is learning that doesn’t work. I can converse with her, explain to her and she can ask me questions to help her understand better. J can’t do that.

I try explaining to J that all the technology is like junk food for his brain, he doesn’t hear that either. And, I know that a lot of kids are like that but not at 7 years old. At this age, I should be able to have that brief conversation with him and explain why he can or cannot have something he wants and have him hear me and respond appropriately. But, I don’t have that. He doesn’t have those skills. I wonder how frustrating it must be for HIM. I can’t read his mind. I don’t just know what it is he wants or he feels. It must be so frustrating for him that no one understands.

When I went downstairs to check on him (and the status of my delivery) a little bit later on, I found J playing on his Nook. He switched toys once again. And he did it without my having any knowledge of his intentions or wants.

I can’t remember the last time I played a game with J. I can’t remember the last time I did something with him and felt he learned anything from me. A time where I felt that my job as his mother was more than keeping him clean, safe from harm, feeding him and hoping that I am doing right by him. My favorite time with J is first thing in the morning, when he climbs into bed for some morning cuddles. The world is quiet. He is calm. He has nothing else to focus on but the thoughts in his head so, for a moment at least, he is listening. He talks to me. It is usually so brief before his sensory needs get the better of him and the calm is too much and he needs to be tickled or squeezed and then doesn’t know what to do with sensory input and the roller coaster begins for the day. But, in those moments, he tells me he loves me. He says “thank you” when I tell him I love him. THAT is the best part of my day most days. I just hope he, on come level, knows this. I hope he knows just how much I love him.

 

Jbear


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