Saturday, February 23, 2013

Toy Story Paradox

This one might be the post that makes all of you question my parenting.  Honestly, it makes me shake my head a bit.  It's one of those topics that, at its mention in a group of moms, prompts a range of spoken and unspoken things such as aired and unaired opinions, guilt, piety, defiance, spouted references to studies, suggestions of techniques and sets of rules, piety, and pride.  Everyone seems to have an opinion.  It's even been suggested that TV causes autism.

Yeah, that was one of my personal favorite studies.  Or not.

Our family takes a rather soft, maybe passive stance on the whole TV issue.  We don't have cable or even local channels, but that's honestly because of budget issues and not moral or ethical issues.  When we did have TV, we still just watched what we wanted, and there wasn't that much that interested us on the channels we could afford, so when we moved we left it off.  Now we pretty much do Netflix with a side of Youtube and iTunes.

I always hesitate to say anything when people start talking about this and that show, because we don't have TV.  We want to avoid being the type of people who stick their noses to the heavens and announce, "Well WE choose NOT to do that."  Reasons for that are a whole other post.  Basically we do what we do, you do what you do.   So know that if you let your kids go nuts watching TV, I have no opinion.  Really.  Do your thing.

Normally, our rules for TV are pretty easy.  Our kids aren't terribly fixated on TV, so it's really not much of a struggle.  Our struggle is more iPad and computer related.  Generally, they can watch a couple PBS shows a day, give or take if they're sick or it's super rainy or cold out.  Feature-length films are for the weekend.  That stems from my belief that you should have to wait for SOMEthing.  If you don't there's nothing to look forward to, and what kind of existence is that?  And let's be honest... leaving the house to go and do things is not exactly relaxing. A lot of the time it's the opposite of fun.

So when I got the flu over Christmas break, the kids got to watch a LOT of TV.  Okay, mostly movies.  I think they watched the Toy Story trilogy every day.  And the mom who isn't terribly worried because her kids seem to like to play more than watch started to worry.

No, I felt horribly guilty.

I allowed my child to watch the same three movies every day.  The rest of the day, we pretty much watched other cartoons.  So the guidelines we did have in place went out the window when the family hit survival mode.  I hung my head about this for a few days, then started to see something amazing.

Ryan was playing with his Potato Head, walking him along, making him say things, mostly quoted lines from the movie.

He sought out other Toy Story related toys we already had, making them his favorite toys.  Toys he previously had no interest in whatsoever suddenly became his favorite.

Why is this amazing?  What is the big deal about a kid finding an old toy?

Ryan got to where he wanted to only play with trains and tracks.  This is not a problem, right?  They're non-violent.  They're something we've bought gradually, so there's plenty.  The problem comes when they begin to frustrate him.  The tracks began to make him angry.  They had to have a finite end, resulting in his trying to move books, even furniture to act as a buffer at the end of the tracks.  Most of the rest of the toys he had were uninteresting.  Well, except for the i-devices.  We were ate a frustrating impasse.  The only toys he wanted to play with maddened him.  The video-game, i-device play had to be limited.  But without that, what does he enjoy?  We had no idea what to do next.  His interests are so very limited.

After a few days of recovery, it began to dawn on me that Toy Story had taught him, albeit by rote, how to pretend.  Well, a somewhat sketchy framework anyway.  The thing is, something that I thought would surely turn his brain to mush was in a way a textbook.  Andy and his playthings gave Ryan a different view on toys... well, a lot of them.

I'm not suggesting that you throw out whatever guidelines you have about television.  I'm not suggesting that Toy Story be used to teach all autistic kids to pretend.  There is still a mile between where Ryan and his interests are and age-appropriate play and socialization is even farther off.

Still, there's something deliciously magical about watching Ryan play with those guys.  His joy when he snuggles Sheriff Woody and drifts off to sleep, as he changes the hat for Mr. Potato Head's, as he chases the dog around the house calling him "Buster".

There's something more amazing yet about the way God uses things that run fully against our grain to accomplish his purpose.

Thanks be to He who knows so much better than I do.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, we have had very similar revelations lately. I know just what you mean!


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