My son has always been a source of inspiration. He will be twelve in June and despite all the hardships he’s faced he continues to grow in an intuitive way that knocks me to my knees. I am raising a great person. His struggles seem to be the source of that greatness. Every time he messes up he seems to stew and mull over his view of himself until he figures out what he wants that view to be. I don’t know where he got that sort of courage but he’s always been my superior. In many ways he forces me to learn lessons that I need to know like LISTEN, BELIEVE, TRUST.
I’m hard on him. I rarely give him breathing room. An on going struggle has been my disapproval of his Xbox “obsession”, as I call it, but over the weekend I learned something about that Xbox. It is not the thing I thought is was. I believed, arrogantly, that is was an inferior form of entertainment, one that required no imagination or invention on the part of my son and for him was a source of escape from the realities he hasn’t wanted to face (everything from homework and chores to loss and financial hardship). What’s most important is I believed it was an escape from me. And so that Xbox became enemy number one. And I stewed and mulled over all the pit falls and listed dangers of it. All the criticisms regarding it’s effect on children I built into my platform for why it wasn’t good for him and why he was selling himself short for not choosing to do something else. Lazy, unimaginative- these were some of the words I used while talking to him. “Go outside and play,” I’d say, “with who?” he’d reply, “choose a sport,” I’d say, “but I’m not into them,” he’d reply. Back and forth we’d go and my frustration with him would grow. Essentially my son became a punching bag for my frustrations, unwarranted frustrations because, had I really been listening closely, I’d have heard, he’d been inviting me to join him all along. “Why do you hate video games Mom?” I always had; just wasn’t into them. They weren’t my thing. My thing was dance class and drama. As a girl I wanted to be involved in those things all the time. And I LOVED school. Such a little geek I know, but I LOVED school. Nobody had to pressure me into high academic achievements, getting a B was a scourge on my ego. My son isn’t like that. So I thought he wasn’t like me. I kept feeling these huge shifts in our relationship that began to look more and more like canyons and the deeper and wider they got the more afraid I became and my ego easily translated that fear into anger. It felt good to yell- in the moment. It felt good to blame him for being lazy, for not being more like me- in the moment. But then I’d look at his face, his resignation, and see the canyon just get deeper and not feel good at all. My son was my punching bag. No, I didn’t hit him- physically. I hit him emotionally. And it was an easy thing to do because he’s an emotional creature- A lot like me. His heart is on his sleeve so it’s easy to aim for. And I have such easy aim because of how much he cares for me. And so I used the best of him against him in order to justify my fears and more importantly my inadequacies. The truth is when I got home from work, a job that doesn’t pay, a job that exhausts me physically and emotionally for being under paid and underappreciated, I’d just want to sleep. So when he’d ask, “do you want to play Sky Rim with me?” or when he’d say “Mom, watch me play” I’d wreck the invitation to pieces by deconstructing the game as some sort of deviant activity that was hurting his life. I was the one hurting his life. The game was a game. So I finally gave in, against my ego, and decided to join my son rather then avoid him, to trust his intuition instead of the critisms I’ve read, to stop making excuses for my laziness and engage in an activity he was interested in. This is what I realized. The game is a game. It’s brilliantly designed and yes, a little violent but no more so then any Cowboys and Indians game of yore. It’s clever but it’s also a little transparent; in other words, despite it’s awesome graphics, it is clearly and indisputable a game, not an alternate reality. More importantly it is now something that I understand so that when he talks to me about it, I’m able to engage in the conversation instead of avoid it. I can be tired after coming home from work and still make him happy just by sitting next him and asking annoying mom questions like, “how can you see which way to go?” He doesn’t mind it. He actually enjoys it. It wasn’t him that was pulling away. It was me. And it doesn’t matter that he’s playing video games instead of playing outside, it matters that he when he invited me into his world I was refusing because I didn’t approve of the format. It was like refusing a dream job because they worked with PCs instead of Macs. It was my snobbery rooted in fear that kept me from seeing- this was the right thing. The vehicle didn’t matter the destination did. My son wanted me to come along and I was refusing because the car wasn’t what I wanted it to be. It wasn’t the right color, the right make, it burned too much gas, and so I let him drive away alone despite the fact that he was telling me he wasn’t ready to do so. Stupid me. And now I’m addicted to Sky Rim. Yup. I’m not gonna play it because I have NO hand eye coordination but I actually find myself asking him where he is in his quests and “did you kill that dragon yet?” So awesome. You’ve heard it, that little adage that says “You don’t get to pick who your family is but you do get to pick your friends”. It always made friends sound so much more important to me because I had a say in who they were, their color, their make and model, their operating system. My family on the other hand, I would have passed most of them over. What I realized because of my son was it could be the stupidest mistake of my life. What we think we want, what we think we need is so rarely what suits us. My son isn’t a little me, scholastic (and self righteous). He’s better then me in many ways. Even though I’m his parent, I don’t get to choose who he is. My job is to guide the best out of him, not to dictate what that will be. Here I am, lucky enough to have a child that wants me to play his video games with him and I’m critising him for wanting to play video games.
Would he choose me?
If he had the choice would he choose a mom who has Tourrettes and OCD, who doesn’t make good money, who didn’t have a place to live, who repels men and justifies it with feminism (that’s for another blog) and literally avoids spending time with him then turns it around makes it his fault? Why would anyone choose a mom like that? I’ve got to realize he’s more then a God sent lesson for me. He’s not just here for me he’s here for himself, this is his life, his chance in the world and that brief time where our chances at life over lap is when I’m responsible for teaching him things that will increase his chances and improve his life. I can’t do that by avoiding him. My parenting game just stepped up a notch. He needs me even though it’s not as clear as it used to be. He needs me and still welcomes me into his life.
Funny how as soon as I started listening to him about Sky Rim he started talking to me about girls…
He always refused to talk to me, would say things like “I don’t talk to my mom about this stuff” and it would hurt so bad because he felt so comfortable talking to my sister about it. But she’d play video games with him. Now, she’s moved two thousands miles away. Maybe I’m the sloppy second. Or maybe he wasn’t talking to me because all he was hearing was criticisms about the things that interested him and the girl subject was just a little too tender to risk those kind of criticisms about. By telling him I didn’t like what he was interested in I think he just assumed I didn’t like him and no matter how many “I love yous” he heard come out of my mouth I don’t think he believed them. I’m his mom so it is my job to direct him away from things that aren’t good for him but I realized, videos games were not the bad in this situation. My attitude was. And it was all based on my laziness and my fear. I have to own it. It was hurting him and he’s the last person I want to hurt. It’s okay when I nag about him playing the game before he finishes his homework; It’s not okay that I criticize him for liking the game. It’s okay that I require him to do the dishes before he finishes his quest; It’s not okay to turn down an invitation to join those quests just so I can hop on Facebook or Twitter. I gotta get my shit straight. And I am, one mistake at a time. I’ve just gotta stick with it. Not only through the times when he doesn’t want me to but when I don’t want to- which is pretty taboo to admit. There are those shameful times though and denying them only gives them power. Admitting it to myself and feeling the shame that I deserve to feel is a start. Really, was Facebook or Twitter really that important? Was work really that important? Was anything really as important as my connection to my son? Nope. And Sky Rim is cool.