Tuesday, February 1, 2011

(Dis)connected

So, I'm not going to lie...I LOVE my new netbook. Sure, it's small and it's lacking a few bells and whistles because it's got Windows 7 Starter Edition. That edition is standard to most netbooks, but missing some random things, like the ability to change the wallpaper. But I don't mind because I already knew that stuff going in, and ultimately the small size is a huge plus. It's even better now that I got a mouse I love to go with it--it has a tiny little USB, no wire, and it will work on the arm of the chair!--so I don't have to battle the touchpad anymore AND I can play mind-numbing games like Bejeweled Blitz and Zuma Blitz with ease.

But I probably like my netbook a little too much. I hop on it quickly when I'm cooking dinner, and eagerly look forward to Jacob's bedtime so Craig and I can settle in, catch up on some TV, and surf the web. That's not to say that I don't cherish the time Jacob is awake. I'm not specifically wishing that Jacob would go to bed as much as I am looking forward to some "me" time. And after a long day of work, cooking dinner, and whatever else, turning off my body and brain for a bit always sounds nice. And it probably sounds nicer than trying to play hockey with Jacob or understanding his setup of his hockey guys on their rink. It's not that I want to do those things, but they're considerably more challenging.

Jacob is a unique kid. He's awesome and amazing and very intelligent, but he's a kid that knows what he wants and is determined to get it. He cannot be easily swayed. He's very particular about a lot of things. I know a lot of kids are, but there are days that I wonder if he's not just that much weirder. I've wondered more than once if he's got a pinky toe into the autistic spectrum, which sounds awful to say, but as a pessimistic parent, sometimes your brain goes there. When your kid repeatedly feels the need to get his hockey guys in a certain setup before he goes to bed, or repeats things over and over, or brings up a random, fleeting memory out of the blue six months later, you start to wonder. He's a social kid and he's met his milestones all along, so I'm sure he's fine, but his obsession with sports and general one-track mind (and the tantrums that occur when we try to deviate) prove to be challenging and once in a while I truly wonder what's going on in that head of his. We know he's very smart, but there are a lot of different types of smart.

All that said, it makes playing with him a little exhausting. When we play hockey or lacrosse, he's got a lot of rules about who uses which stick, who plays which position, or which ball or puck we can use ("No, that's a hockey ball!"), so just getting to the point of playing can be a challenge. And often before we get to that point, he's gone off on some other tangent and I'm standing there waiting...at which point my brain heads off to some other task I should be doing. And no, that shouldn't happen. I should be engaged with my child and his playing. But I get distracted, he gets distracted, and it all falls apart. And even when we do play, I'm constantly a bit a nervous about whether or not this is the time that an errant ball (no matter how soft) glances off the lamp or if this is the day he's strong enough to dent the wall. It's just easier to play with Jacob outside than in, and during the winter we're just stuck. Of course, outside it often isn't much better, since I spend most of the playtime chasing balls down the driveway...but still, it's far more interactive and there's less to distract me outside...though, believe me, the weeds do!

I do want to play with him, but inevitably it just doesn't happen as much as I'd like. First of all, I don't see him too much. We have a few short hours in the evenings, and between dinner, cleanup, and any other tasks I'm desperate to get done before I get too tired, our time is limited. All of a sudden it's bedtime and I'm feeling bad for not spending more time with him. Craig does hang out with him in the evenings quite a bit, which I think is good since he works so many weekends and doesn't get that time to spend with him. And if I haven't already mentioned it, Jacob has turned into a really great independent player. He will shoot pucks into his net, kick his soccer ball, or just sit with his hockey guys for quite a while. If he happens to be up in his room, he will also sit and read. He's been so good lately that a couple weeks ago I left him in the house alone while I went out to shovel the driveway, which needed to get done right then and there. Normally I wait until Jacob's asleep and take the monitor outside, but that night we were leaving for Buffalo and I couldn't put Jacob to bed ahead of time. He could have easily knocked on the door or window to catch my attention if he needed me, but yes, I know it was a bit of a risk. It's not something I will be doing often, but when Craig is working or out of town, sometimes I have to stretch things a bit. But he did great, and I so appreciate his ability to amuse himself when needed. And I suppose that ability makes it even easier to just let him play. If he's content, why disturb him?

I'll admit that I've always had problems understanding the brains of kids who are playing imaginatively. I'm sure anyone trying to play with me as a kid would have had much the same problem. Kids' brains are so random sometimes that the craziest thing seems logical. And while you can always go along with it to some degree, there always seems to be a point where they're obviously fine with their rules and their ideas, and adult interference is only going to dampen the mood. I can follow Jacob's lead, yes, but if I touch the wrong guy, he'll let me know it. And I guess that's why I have a hard time playing hockey guys with Jacob. Maybe I'll find it easier if I have a girl someday and I help her learn to play dolls. I've done that before, so maybe I'll find it easier. I'm not sure, but I certainly hope so. But in the meantime, it's part of the reason I'm hesitant to break into Jacob's games with his hockey guys. I'm simply not sure what to do.

So, in the meantime I just have to hope that his solo playing and the games his vivid imagination creates will teach him valuable skills. And yes, I do have to work harder at playing with Jacob. I need to put down the computer, put down the dish rag, and force myself to stay awake and do that other stuff later. For the time I'm with him I need to be more involved, more engaged, and more excited about what he's doing. I definitely enjoy watching him, so I probably should enjoy actually interacting with him so much more. Don't you think?

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