When my kids were about 3 or 4, they loved lining up Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends or Hot Wheels. They were perfectly arranged and evenly spaced. They had to be taught to imagine people driving or what a family might do on an outing. Nonfunctional routines were more likely to happen during floor time than functional play. Play times weren’t always ordered. These were the same older two that would dump out all of their wooden puzzles at once to piece them together because that was a superpower at one point. These days I’m the only one that really enjoys jigsaw puzzles. With each thing that held their attention they would obsess (much like I do with interesting men). They would repeat the word “why?” in an echolalic refrain, but perseverative speech would cover every single possibility about a situation. They needed answers from all angles. It was also an inability to comprehend receptive language. At first it required insane amounts of patience, but I’ve grown to appreciate and love the curiosity that drives a person to seek deeper meanings and answers.
Lately my kids are all about gaming. It feeds a need for repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. Taking away their release for punishment has lead to meltdowns and tantrums and I eventually had to start defending their gaming habits to teachers. It’s not just my ASD kids, but my neurotypical 9 year old as well.
One year a teacher kept sending me articles about the negative impact of gaming on kids. I answered her with the positives, but it was more defiance than anything. My kids were developing relationships online with kids that were becoming friends. They talked. They enjoyed each other. I wasn’t about to let anything stop their new friendships. My kids have friends of all ages from all over the world, and surprising political views that I’ve never shared.
The latent benefits of gaming that I’ve witnessed include mastering fine motor skills and problem solving. You have to be able to plan things and when working with others you are working on teamwork. These are school and workplace superpowers. My boys have been curious about history because it’s woven into the histories of the games they play and I’ve caught them singing songs that I grew up with. I secretly hope gamers will revolutionize modern music. There’s the mental exercise to gaming that can keep those neurons firing into older age. I know how I feel when I’m mentally stretched and gaming does that for gamers. They have to be able to think on their toes and make quick decisions. That gut instinct is something I hope to cultivate for myself. For my middle son, I’ve seen a huge jump in his research skills. Ask him about the next console Nintendo is rolling out next year and he has excited answers and will geek out in the most adorable way you could imagine. He hops and I love it.
Like my reading time, when my kids are gaming, they tend to not overeat because sometimes they actually forget to eat. My boys first told me about French Macarons. I had never had them, but their friends made it sound like they taste like love feels and we tried them. Now I make them sometimes because I can and they ask nicely. Sometimes isn’t more often because they’re sugar, almond meal and egg whites, but mainly sugar. The direction that modern medicine is heading in would put my kids on the right trajectory for world star surgeon status. I can live with that. I can also live with them doing exactly what they are doing now for the rest of their lives. My expectations are low but they also tend to surprise me in a huge way. They want to get paid to be gamers with snarky commentary. I once saw a studio where these things are recorded. I can support that. Other Minecraft mothers will recognize the voice of that creepy Brit. That man has been an idol. I checked out my YouTube and it’s filled with recommendations for all sorts of cute girls playing Minecraft, Minecraft School and Five Nights at Freddy’s. They’re also big on anime. Anime Expo is coming up and they’ll be there with their Dad because cosplay is not my brand of geekology. In the meantime I’m tasked with checking internet browser histories for anime porn because that is a fun thing for my 13 year old.
Gaming was always something I left to their Dad and I’ve only gotten involved in recent months because we have separate houses and they need their things at each place. I bought a PS4 with Call of Duty for them for Valentine’s Day. Kid1 loved it but never touched it. Kid2 had a meltdown. He is all about Mr. Mario. His Dad told him two houses mean two of everything and I broke that rule by not getting a Wii U. Kid3 liked it but also never touched it. Last night I jumped into the role that is now mine and bought a used Wii U console and Naruto Game for the PS4. I’m paying attention to the Minecraft games, forums and videos they watch. I may even start reading Homestuck, but I’m not sure I’m there yet. Kid1 acts like I’d love Splatoon, but I’m also okay making sure they’re well fed and watered while I read and write around them.
You would think I was at one point a gamer, but I’ve never really been into it. My big sister bought my Nintendo console when I was a kid. It was the original console with Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt. I had fun, but eventually got bored. I’m one of those rare people that never beat the game. In frustration I would shoot at the dog that laughed at me. My other sister beat the game. She is 7 years older than me. She was the beautiful one that all of my friends liked. It was especially hard to lose to her and I quit playing. She had the cute boys that liked her and the body of a runner. All of my friends liked her and I couldn’t compete with her. It took years to fall into mutual love and respect because it took that long to learn that she was never competing with me and wanted to see me happy as well. I quit playing video games around the same time I was more interested in skating with the neighborhood boys and before I gave that up for getting lost in romance novels, warping my ideas of love and romance.