Tuesday, May 24, 2016

When the Motives Feel Wrong

We all know that someone can be acting the "right" way while having hidden selfish motives.

Autism can sometimes take this to an all-new level, and I'm not sure how to feel about it.

For weeks now Ethan has been begging me to stay over at the grandparents' house. Both kids love going to sleep over with their grandparents on either side of the family. And yeah, like most kids part of the fun is knowing your grandparents will let you get away with much more than your parents will. It's their job. For Ethan, this means in particular at my parents' house, he gets not just a little more screen time, but HOURS of screen time. His experience with Gramma's iPad has been, well, legendary.

"My record is six hours!" he bragged the other day. "We need to go back. I want unlimited screen time!"

Okay, so here's the thing. I get that he's burned out on the school year. Aren't we all? I get that he needs some downtime, and what better place than at the grandparents'? But there's something about him only wanting to go for the screen time that rubs me the wrong way. It's like when he walks in the house and barely says hello, then asks where the iPad is.

I know that he loves his grandparents. I don't like feeling as if he's using them to get to a piece of technology.

Then I try to remember -- he's not a typical kid in this respect (or then again, maybe he is, with the way kids are with technology these day) and I shouldn't only view him through my typical mind.

So where is the balance?

The same theme runs through our days that involve baseball games and his Wii time. I just wrote about this. He HATES not getting his allotted screen time because he has to stop early to go to a game. Often, I'll say if he has a good attitude he can have a little more time when he gets home. So he'll get home, walk through the door, and I'll want to talk about the game for a minute. One night he'd gotten a great hit, his first really good hit, and his team had really slaughtered the other. He walked up to me with a gleam in his eye. I thought he was excited about what had just happened.

"Wasn't that an amazing hit?" I asked.

"Time for Minecraft?!" he shouted happily. He'd already moved on.

There are times when I feel as if everything is just a means to one end: screen time. And with summer coming, this concerns me. I know this is the world we live in now. It's not just Ethan, it's all of the kids, even Chloe. The allure is so great, and it's just so easy.

I don't think technology is evil. I just wish sometimes my kids, and Ethan in particular, would get excited about other things. Something feels wrong about promising him he can have screen time if he plays a baseball game, or goes outside and explores.

Again and again I've learned, with kids (typical or not), it's extremely difficult to create motivation. I can't name the number of times I used to try to make Ethan want to play properly with toys or to be interested in other kids. My overtures never worked. While he's still not a big fan of most toys, he did start becoming interested in other kids, and there wasn't a single thing I did to make it happen.

I know there will be many times when the kids do what they do because they "have" to, not because they want to.

Sometimes that's just the way it goes. Sometimes I want more for them than that.

Right now all I can think is to keep exposing them to new things...to nudge but not push to hard...to allow them time for what they truly love right now while trying to create space that just might fill in with something else, too.

And that's about all I've got.

If anyone else has thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them!

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