Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What's not to like?

As Bud gets older, I find myself worrying because he is still drawn to toys and videos geared toward the preschool set. I worry that the gap between Bud and his peers is growing, and that before long his interests will inspire teasing - or bullying - from other children. I watch carefully when I bring Bud to school - watch for knowing glances between other children, for rolling eyes, for snickers and elbows in ribs. And so far, I see none of it. Instead, I see children - from his grade and from other grades - go out of their way to say hello to him and give him polite space when he's having a difficult transition to his school day. Everything I see tells me I have no reason to worry.

And yet, I do.

I was struck, especially, last month when Bud turned nine. His very favorite presents - the ones he cherished above all others - were two Elmo's World DVDs and an Abby Cadabby doll. I watched him from across the room as he sweetly cuddled and chatted with his stuffed Muppet and I thought about what the other nine-year-old boys at school got for their birthdays. My hunch is that few of them would be happy with a stuffed Abby Cadabby. As I watched him, I had two strong, simultaneous, opposing reactions - the first, gratitude that such simple things can make Bud so happy, that he is not tearing through childhood at breakneck speed, that sweetness and innocence radiate from him; and the second, fear that someday my son would be a twenty-year-old man, still sweetly innocent, and still cuddling his Abby Cadabby doll and watching Elmo's World. I've been working on holding tight to the gratitude and letting go of the fear, but it's hard. It's hard.

The other day, Bud popped in a Teletubbies DVD and giggled as he watched it, as delighted as he was the first time he saw it, many years ago. The fear crept back in, and I wondered if Bud made the same sorts of comparisons with his peers that I do - Did he know they liked different things? Was he interested at all in trying them out?

"Hey, Bud," I asked, keeping my tone as matter-of-fact as I could, "you really like the Tubbies, don't you?"

"Yes," he answered.

"Do the kids at school like the Tubbies?" I asked.

"No," he answered, definitively.

"Oh!" I said, feigning surprise. "What do the kids at school like?"

"Me," he answered.

Also definitively.

And he's right; they do. So maybe that means there's only one thing for me to do. Maybe, for now, I just need to kill ouch.

31 comments:

Heather said...

what a perfect post- everything you said rang so true to my heart, though my baby is only four so he can still be "my baby" :), but even at four, of course, i worry about such things in the future...

KK said...

The good thing I've noticed with my son is that he doesn't care what other kids think, so even tho he might be able to acknowledge that what he likes is different, is doesn't bother him. If only we could all be so self-assured, right?

kirsten said...

my son has surprisingly similar interests (star wars, legos, etc.) as his peers but i still worry about the friend situation - esp. as he's only 5 and i already see the eye-rolling. and while KK says her son doesn't notice - mine usually doesn't seem to either, but history shows he aborbs far more than he shows. and i fear it will only get harder.

every mama worries.

kristina said...

We much like Bud here too. Charlie decided on his own that he was done with Teletubbies---I've offered them to him and he's said no.

Christa Dahlstrom said...

Yep - I can relate.

For us, it's not just the age thing, but now the gender thing too. Ben told me that he wants a princess backpack, which I have no problem with, except the fear of the teasing he'll endure from the 5-going-on-13 year mainstream boys at his school.

Luckily, he has a complete lack of self-consciousness. Funny how quirks come with their own built-in protection mechanism.

Maddy said...

One of my sons has a pal in 5th grade who still adores Thomas the Tank engine, a developmental phase that we have passed over. Everyone knows that he is a devotee of TT and he's a big lad. Everyone, including me, loves him for who he is, TT and all.
Best wishes

gretchen said...

I hear you. I hear you. Holding tight to the gratitude and letting go of the fear.

I like Bud. And his mom.

Jen said...

Awesome post, and I'm glad that you're having a good experience with the other kids. We have too- in some ways, I think that it's my one daughter's "quirks" that make her so popular. We're still into Barney here 11 years after everyone's diagnosis...a lot of times I think that it is the one thing I'd change if I could!

mumkeepingsane said...

I worry a lot about how other children will see Patrick. He, however, is more concerned about himself liking the other children. What an interesting perspective, and one I'm learning from.

Beatiful post!

kristi said...

It is so hard isn't it? We value the progress but we wonder about the future.

TC is very into Star Wars and all of the new toys in the Happy Meal at McDonalds. (perhaps a little too much tv!)

Lynanne said...

I still like toys geared toward the preschool set. I don't think it's worrisome for Bud to still like them. The difference is, most kids Bud's age won't admit to liking those toys because the "in" and being "cool" mentality takes over. That's one of the features of my son's autism that I really like. He's not afraid to be himself and kids like him for that.

mommy~dearest said...

Yes- "kill ouch" mom. ;)

My now 7 year old still totes his Baby Einsteins around with him. Only last week he decided he didn't "need" them to take to school. I think the peer pressure is sinking in because kids at his school are teasing him. Luckily (?) it hurts me more than it does him at the moment.

It's great that Bud's friends are his friends, regardless of his differences. They like HIM, not his clothes, shoes, etc. And that's cool.

FXSmom said...

He's not alone at all. And if it makes ya feel better my very "normal" 14 year old still loves to play scooby doo games with my 9 year old :). He just does it quietly so as not to ruin his coolness factor.

Club 166 said...

Great post, Mom!

Buddy Boy (still a few months shy of 9) told me the other day he'd like to get another stuffed dinosaur from "Build a Dino". His favorite toy that he cuddles up with every night is "Sara", his Triceratops.

When he asked me I, too had a twinge of wondering if his fondness for stuffed animals would make him a target of his same age peers. That being said, we'll surely get him the toy.

Joe

dancingmom said...

What a sweet, wise little boy you have.

KAL said...

Great post. Things I've often thought about even if we're still just four (in our house, it's Thomas Elmo and Tubbies). Whatev. You're doing great.

SpooWriter said...

I have felt very conflicted about this for some time, since the first day we discussed age appropriateness in one of my credential classes.

Why?

Because I very much like Disney music, and have a real fondness for Eeyore and Gonzo.

We discussed it for some time and never came up with a good answer except that it was different for me because I'd had the opportunity to be exposed to any music I would like and to choose Disney (along with Celtic and soundtracks in general).

Ultimately, the rule I decided on for my classroom -- and I'm clear on this with the kids -- is that things like The Wiggles and (heaven help me) Barney are for home. If you like them, that's fine, but they're to be enjoyed at home.

At school, on the other hand, part of my job is to teach social skills, and very few other fourth to sixth graders will want to talk about The Wiggles. So, to give the kids a common frame of reference, we listen to oldies and Kids Bop CDs so the kids can have heard current music (without potentially troublesome vocabulary).

And in that way, they can be exposed to lots of types of music. That way, if they end up choosing a "younger" entertainment, it's not because someone assumed they would like it because of their developmental age.

The current favorites in my room, by the way, are "We Will Rock You" and "Stop in the Name of Love." :-)

Christy said...

My PDD,NOS son is nine too, and he just discovered Bear in the Big Blue House. He loooves it. I've noticed that it helps him with social situations, and sparks conversation about these things. Other kids have said things to him, but he says to them that he doesn't care what they like he likes Bear. I think that he is making up for time when these programs didn't make sense to him. He now gets the humor and understands the story line. I am the one that needs to get out of his way and let him be the one to choose what he enjoys.

Drama Mama said...

I love how secure our kids are; Miss M is so much more okay about being "received" than I am.

I'm taking a cue from Bud.

Oh, and by the way...The Tubbies ARE pretty watchable - I'm mesmerized whenever they're on. I understand completely.

laurentius rex said...

That is the beauty of the non normalising atmosphere of autscape, if you want to carry a stuffed toy around with you all day, you carry a stuffed toy around with you.

I think stuff toys maybe have a stronger appeal than culture allows, for instance my mum was an inveterate collector of teddy bears, she said that was the result of a deprived wartime childhood, well even my hard as nails brother, bought her a stuffed cat, which he later admitted that he bought because he had developed an attachement to it, he reclaimed it after my mum died.

Me I used to have a beanie Kangaroo in the front of my landie and this is a tough neighbourhood.

There is also the strange incident of the other stuffed cat, which again my brother was involved in. We were in a shop with our mum, and we bought her this toy cat. At some point in our journey home, my brother came out in a matter of fact way, that there was an important question we needed to discuss as a family. Of course mum and I thought this was something really serious to do with his future, but then he said "we have to find a name for the cat" well he was in his late thirties at the time.

Oh yeah and my childhood teddy bear sits on top of my typewriter in my living room today, yes it is the one in this picture.

http://www.larry-arnold.info/Autobiog/Selfpix/toddler-l.jpg

Joeymom said...

For what it is worth, my favorite thing to do through graduate school was to watch Disney movies. I could watch Cinderella over and over again all day long. Drove my (now husband) insane.

Joey is a half a beat behind the other kids, we;re still in Little Bear and Franklin, but we also have some forays into things like Magic School Bus and National Geographic Wild Planet. He likes cars, but not into superheroes yet (Andy loves Spiderman, but I don't think he really knows who he is- he just likes the red costume). To each their own.

Samantha said...

Great to find your blog. This is Jakes video - hes 10, has PDD NOS. Behaviours are about 2000 percent better and he's a great kid, doing well at school. This weeks obsession is zombies and he's into writing his zombie book. He uploaded this video we made together about pdd nos and how he feels about his dx (oh, and the zombies)...! Cheers.

Jordan said...

What an excellent post this is. He certainly sounds incredibly likable to me. ;-)

Niksmom said...

Hmmm, I thought I had left a comment but maybe I only thought about it?? In any case, you know I adore Bud exactly as he is and where he is!

And, hey, at 45 I still like Disney Channel adn it's corny shows/movies like Hannah Montana and HSM! So, we all have our quirky tastes! :-)

LAA and Family said...

At age 9 1/2, Hotwheels, science books, and PBS "American Experience" videos have replaced some of the "younger" toys, books, and videos that my son used to be interested in. I still catch him playing with Little People and Caillou's treehouse on occasion, however! I enjoy his differences and I think others do too.

4 said...

The other night I opened the den door to see the 14 year old Son and the 17 year old Daughter enraptured with (of all things) Hannah Montana. I took the opportunity to give them both a good natured ribbing when I was summarily put in my place. the conversation went something like this...
me: Are you actually watching Hannah Montana. I think I may have to barf.
Son: well if you prefer, we could be watching porn (editorial note: while the names appear on the channel listings, we do not have any of the channels in our service)
Daughter: or we could be watching someone's life in hell on A&E's 'Intervention'.
me: so, which one is actually Hannah..."

Let Bud enjoy whatever he wants. The alternatives are desperately frightening!

Cyndi said...

What a great post...I have the same concerns b/c my 3.5 year old still plays with infant toys. In fact, he JUST really started playing with them. I think they will catch up eventually and just think of all the money we are saving on toys! LOL

David said...

Yeah, totally you need to kill ouch. We all do! Bud is so lucky that you're his mom!

This was a really lovely post- complete with happy surprise ending. Thanks mom-nos!

:D ♥

Daisy said...

"Worry is the misuse of imagination." That's on a sign behind my desk in my classroom. nevertheless, I still worry about my 16-yr-old who enjoys kitchen utensils and toy vehicles.

beagoodmom said...

I go thru the same things with my son. My instinct is to ban the baby toys, because when they are not available, he is just as happy playing with age -appropriate toys. But then we had another baby. I cannot keep her from experiencing baby toys. So, now we try to limit it and clearly tell him that certain toys are for his baby sister, which means that I will not take them away from her or force her to leave him alone when he wants to play with them. That means he has to play with her, if he wants to play with the toys. he is fine with that. and we think it means he is learning another life skill, how to play with others and be kind to younger children.

Navi said...

I think it depends on the kids. My oldest is very open about everything, so when at a school function, and Tristan was tapping on the drinking fountain, and one child said 'look at that kid' the other child said 'that's Tristan' in a tone that said there's nothing wrong with it. I only hope the kids at Tristan's school are as open at their age. Due to the severity of his condition, I can't send him to my daughter's school...