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.
What 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!