Mythankfulboy and I get along really well, which is spoken with great gratitude and trepidation since he is a young teen. Still, I offer this thought to preface a description of a brief period of tension and angst we had over the weekend.
Over the weekend I had a fever, and was in a bit of a fog for most of Saturday. In the afternoon sometime I realized that B had been gaming (Destiny on Xbox One) pretty much since he’d been awake. He’d checked on me as he passed by for food or the bathroom, but otherwise he had been gaming. So, I asked him to come in to where I was sitting and I asked him to calculate the number of hours he’d been at the console. He calculated, “About 5”. I said, “Then that’s plenty, don’t you think?” He wasn’t sure how to answer this. He knew the expected answer was “Yes ma’am”, but everything in his adrenaline-pumped being was saying “Uh, no.” What he actually said was, “Ok. Can I just finish this one thing?” then he returned to his room, finished that one thing, and joined me in the living room where he proceeded to talk over the Hallmark Christmas movie into which I’d been sucked. It crossed my mind that I should have waited until my movie was over to take a stand, but instead I just told him to hush and let me watch my movie. So he pulled out his iPod. Ok, well, I wasn’t going to fight that screen when I was screening, myself.
When my movie was over I built a fire in the stove and moved to the new location. He joined me there and, after some quiet fireside contemplation asked, “Can I just ask why, if it makes me happy, you don’t want me to do it?” A good question, right? I chuckled and gave him the not-all-things-that-make-us-happy-are-good talk, mixed deftly with the gaming-turns-your-brain-to-mush talk and the being-able-to-postpone-pleasure-is -correlated-with-better-life-outcomes-according-to-the-marshmallow-study talk. He harrumphed and went to bed at 8:00.
The next morning I asked him if he wanted to make monkeybread with me, and he happily bounded into the kitchen. After a few minutes of working side-by-side, I asked if he was still mad at me. He said, “Well, yes. I mean, I don’t know. What’s the difference between angry and frustrated?” I told him that angry was when frustration overtakes you, and you go from feeling like you can deal to feeling like you can’t. He never really said if he was actually angry (based on that definition), but he expressed, again, that gaming was something he loved to do and he wished I wouldn’t put a time limit on it. Then he suggested that he be able to game several hours, as long as some of the time was in the morning and some was in the afternoon/evening. I told him I thought that was a really good step towards self-monitoring, and that I could work with that, but I still needed to say no more than 4 hours on weekends. The only reason I allow that much is because I hear some really wonderful things being discussed and managed socially when he’s online with his friends. Earlier today I heard him chastise someone for using the word autism in what must have been a derogatory or flippant way (“Man, autism is a trigger for me when you use it like that. You’ve gotta find a different way to say that” – we may need to talk about the word “trigger”, but I thought he handled the situation fairly well). He also has no problem with my listening to his side of the discussions – he doesn’t have much choice because we live in tight quarters.
So, the discord was over just like that, but his questions are still with me. Why not do whatever makes you happy? What is the difference between angry and frustrated? When you’re a teen, who should be in charge of your time? I’m reminded that his brain is gearing up for independence, but isn’t there yet, and he still needs – craves – boundaries, assurances, and information he can trust. So, tonight, as I listen to him talking, planning, and giggling with his game-friends, I am grateful that he and I are still on the same team.