My son lives in a tunnel. Ok, not really. He lives in a small house with his mother, father, sister and Facha, the dog. (Ok – not really the dog, either. Sorry – I lapsed into Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant for a second there.) He lives in a constant state of whatever is currently in his head, what he’s thinking, where he’s going, what he’s doing – but only in the sense of however those things affect him. He sees nothing but what is at the end of that tunnel of thought. You see? He lives in a tunnel.
For such a smart kid (and he is so smart it’s scary) he’s pretty clueless about the world around him.
Let me give you an example or two.
Tonight after supper, he got out of his chair at the dining table, pushing it back and into the box behind the chair. Banged himself away from the table loudly, bumped into his father, and made a bee-line for the only comfy chair in the room. When he reached the chair, he hurled himself into it, causing it to slide back and further causing the back corner of the chair to come into contact with the large window in the living room. The bottom half of this window is already cracked I had a moment of apoplexy waiting on the chair to crack the top half of the window, too. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. So when I called all this to his attention, he proceeded to twitch his body in such a way as to hopefully scoot the chair forward without having to get up. Meanwhile, he’s holding onto an accent pillow which, as he’s scooting the chair forward, is pushing a glass off the side-table with each scoot until….CRASH! Glass hit the floor.
All this occurred over about a 40 second period of time. I hollered at him out of sheer frustration and then his father made him leave the room for a little while.
Hubby wrongly assumed I was just being pissy and so I tried to explain that really, it wouldn’t matter all that much if stuff like this didn’t happen all the time around our son. An explanation to which I received a “Yeah, right,” response.
Ok – moving on.
While I cleared off some stuff from the table, this allowed our son a few minutes alone in his room so when I called him to come talk to me for a few minutes, he was angry and defensive.
I explained it like this:
Buddy, you do realize that there is a whole big world out that that you interact with, and that interacts with you, on a daily basis? Everything you do and everything you say affects someone or something else. Right now, you’re moving through life in a tunnel and I really need you to come out of that tunnel. All you see is what’s at the end of your tunnel. Where you’re going. What you’re doing. What your goal is. But you don’t see the things around you that your journey to the end – to your goal – is affecting. Let me give you an example…
And I proceed to tell him the story of Alice’s Restaurant and the twenty-seven color glossy photographs with the circles and arrows and a para….wait. Sorry. I just did it again. I call a do-over!
And I proceed to tell him what I told you above about the chair and the glass. He was completely oblivious to everything I said except the sitting down part and the trying to scoot the chair forward part – until I hollered at him.
He said, “But I don’t always drop stuff, Mom!”
I explained that it wasn’t just dropping stuff and proceeded to talk about all the times he runs into things, how he sits down by throwing himself into his seat and gets up by banging into everything he possibly can and how when he takes a drink he’s so focused on the next thing that he’s not paying attention to where he’s putting the glass and he nearly always slams it into his plate.
All of this he laughed at, like I was trying to be funny.
I explained that really, I’m not criticizing. I’m simply trying to help him understand that everything he does affects something else. Every single day. Well, of course then he got upset because he thought I was trying to tell him he was screwing up on a daily basis, which I was not. But in his ten-year-old brain, maybe that’s how it all sounded, I don’t know.
But what I did say was that I wanted him to start paying attention to the things, the people, the world around him, and how his movement through the world affected everything else. He said he would. I probably did an absolutely awful job at explaining all this to him in a non-threatening manner and in a way that he could understand my point. I suppose the next few days will tell me if he heard me, or he actually HEARD me.
This parenting gig is tough.