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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Minecraft Down the Shaft

I received several loving emails, phone calls and feedback after my last post (you know who you are and I thank you).   I forget sometimes that there are readers out there - however few :). That was a dark time in a dark tunnel on the roller coaster. I couldn’t see the next turn or dip when I wrote that.  Turns out, Finbar and I are zipping around and having fun again after we came out of that tunnel.

A little over a week after that post Finbar is his most chattiest, goofiest, loving self.  WTF? You ask.  Me too. You would think by watching and listening to him now that I grossly exaggerated how bad off he (and I) was when I wrote my last blog.  I find myself second guessing that we were ever struggling so much.  Then I remind myself that most people do not see that side of Finbar or other autistic kiddos, which is one reason I wrote that entry.  It really was that bad. 
600x615xAnti Steve Mod.png.pagespeed.ic.OqzIWCVchC Anti Steve Mod for Minecraft 1.3.2What happened to turn the tides you ask? It was not intense ABA  "fix it" sessions, not extra support in his classroom, not me hitting the bottle (not that I didn’t a few times).    Dahdahdahhhh, it was an 8 day Minecraft de-tox -   it was in fact a DETOX because Finbar was an addict -  that shifted the entire mood of our household.   I am now ready to star in an  episode of "Intervention". 
I've talked to many parents of both neurotypical and autistic or ADHD kiddos, who are having issues with video games and more specifically Minecraft.   To those empathetic parents (by the way I am speaking primarily to parents of boys...girls are probably addicted to harmless games such as Doodle Art and Doodle Recipes, sigh), here is my advice:  Organize an intervention.  It is tempting to use the ipad, especially Minecraft, as a babysitter, a motivator, or to buy you some much needed downtime.  But if like me, your child eat, drinks and sleeps Minecraft or another video game and you are struggling to stay one step ahead of it, your child needs a cold turkey Minecraft de-tox. Not a gone forever, you'll never play again punishment. Just a de-tox, followed by rehab.  De-tox your kid and your life for 10 days and then let me know how you feel.  Tell me what your kids are doing instead of Minecraft (that's the rehab part).  I know, you're thinking "OMG is there ANYTHING else to do at home or in a restaurant or at the doctor's office or on an airplane BESIDES video games??? How will I get my cooking done?? How will I be able to watch MadMen uninterrupted???" Those were certainly my fears.  If you are like us, it is probably hard to imagine your child wanting to do much else besides Minecraft, other than to bug mom and make it impossible to get anything done. 
Before detox,  Minecraft bought me HOURS of time in many ways, especially on weekends and while I cooked dinner.  Not one to send my kids to a bunch of all day camps in the summer, there was a lot of time to fill. “It’s a game of survival skills.”  I justified to myself the digital babysitter named Steve.  “Hey, it’s a socially cool thing, he needs that.” I convinced myself. But as I hinted in the last blog, it got out of control.  It is not really cool when ALL your kid talks about with other kids is Minecraft and when he walks around carrying, hugging and talking to a stuffed Creeper instead of real people :(
 Creeper plush. It talks. Who knew? Why didn't I invent this?

Without Minecraft, and more generally ipad games, but mostly Minecraft, gone are the endless arguments and negotiations over “I need more time” or “just let me finish this one thing” or “he played my file” or “you’ve had it much longer than me! (punch) Mom!".   Gone is the spaciness (relatively speaking, we still have trouble finding shoes, homework packets, etc).  I no longer have to listen to incessant monologues and dialogues at restaurants and in the back seat of the car about “creeper strategies” and the like (ZZZZZZZ).  Gone is my daily screaming “Turn that off NOW! You’re late for (fill in the blank.)”   Gone is the crying and the anxiety - “Mom, please don’t touch the ipad.” “Mom, please don’t let Declan play my file while I am at school.”   Best of all gone is that stupid reward chart for ipad time earned that I could never keep up with! It made me feel like a constant mathematical failure.    I realized that those tics that Finbar developed were caused by STRESS.  Our constant arguing with him and his constant worry about Minecraft were STRESSING US OUT TO THE MAX.  Gone is the STRESS. GONE IS MINECRAFT.  It truly was is a game of survival and I SURVIVED!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

We are on a loop in the roller coaster. Please read this blog of, (can it really be?) over two and a half years ago.   I don’t do well with writing when I’m heading uphill on the coaster.  I feel downright sick when I am in the loop de loop as I have been for the last two months.  I freeze up with fear, bracing myself for what is coming around the bend just seconds away.  Should I be scared? excited? freaking out?   
Summer was hot but my thoughts were cold. No big long travel adventure to occupy our time and energy.  Finbar did one camp. I found myself resentful of the inclusion process required to sign him up for camp, the anxiety I felt everyday dropping him off and picking him up, and the fear that the rest of my life I would be arranging for him to be “included” in camps, college, the workforce and life.  How does one write about such fears? My hands froze on the keyboard.  Cold.
Finbar did four weeks of swim lessons, 5 days a week.  I went with him every time and swam laps in a lane nearby, willing the exercise to increase my serotonin and reduce my anxieties.  I hovered; gazing in the direction of his practice lane, hoping my goggles masked my spying activities.  As I stood there urging Finbar to get his apology out to his swim instructor 3 days into session, I felt around me the pressure of the normalcy of all the other children, their instructors and parents, and the abnormalcy of my son’s forced apology.  “Sorry for not behaving” Finbar eeked out with a nervous squeak. I gave him a squeezy hug trying to reassure him and myself that he could behave.  Seth said “that’s OK buddy, let’s go have fun.”  I silently thanked Seth’s mother for raising a gracious son.  The pool was always cold, and so was I.  I couldn't write about this.
The son of some friends introduced Finbar to Minecraft 2 months ago.  I want to murder the human being who put this game on Earth.  Minecraft ruled the last month of summer.  Yes, it is a survival game. It is about my survival of this game at this juncture.  Minecraft makes Finbar twitch and yell. We are having a week free of screens  and Minecraft right now.  Life is peaceful without Minecraft.
The noises came back about 3 weeks before school started.  I froze again. How can I write about noises and the distress that they bring with them?  Verbal tics they call them.  They usually associate them with Tourette’s and OCD.  How can I write about facing that possibility?  No cause they say, but the cause is obvious to me: Stress. Most people get a headache when they are stressed. My son gets tics. He has outbursts.  We’ve had a lot of spills around the house. His hands keep twitching.  His body keep jerking.  My mind searches for ways to fix this, it freezes with incapacity.  I can’t write about this.  It hurts too much.  Now we are upside down going backwards in the loop. I am scared stiff. Too cold to write.
When I turn to the only help I know right now, our behaviorists, the politicians have gotten in the way and threaten to cut off our services or at least make us pay the $700 a month the therapy costs.  Screw liberal policies. They do not help kids like mine or struggling mothers like myself no matter what they say.  I thought kids with disabilities qualified as the "little people" that they watch out for.  We’re apparently too white and middle class to ask for help, even though my son has outbursts and verbal tics.  Even though I am sick to my stomach with worry.   Sorry, we need your tax dollars to help other folks whose kids don’t speak English well.  “We’ll probably have the FBI at my door if you facebook about that”, my husband says. So I don’t write about it.
My son has been crying a lot, I have been crying a lot. But I am writing again. I couldn't make it to writing class today, so I am writing this.  I have been writing a book about hope.  I don’t feel very much hope right now.  Without hope it is hard to write. I will write again and I will hope again, I know this.  I have been on this roller coaster before.  It will happen when those darns tics go away, when Finbar finally joins swim team, when we find a straight track...