We, like many other families, have a Wii. Yes, we wii. But.... Well, it looks very different in our house than it might in most others.
First, the Chief really has no desire to win. When he bowls, half the time his goal is to see how far he can throw the ball into the other people's lane. He entire purpose of playing the Wii, whether it be sports or Mario, seems to be to test the limits of the game. He has 267 pins in front of him when bowling. What does he do? He throws the ball down the side of the alley, and takes down one pin. Do you know how hard it is to only take down ONE pin, when faced with over 200? And, regardless of what the game told him, he was very proud of this accomplishment.
When he plays golf, it's all about sand and water. If he can bounce the golf ball off a tree at a very high speed, his day has been made.
MarioKart--"Look, watch what happens when I drive over here, Mommy!" "Look, I'm driving in a store!"
When we all play Super Mario Bros. together, the game is more about smashing and breaking bricks. "Mommy, watch what happens when we smash the floor at the same time!" He thinks dying in a particular way is hilarious. He will purposely set things up so that watching him play becomes like a comedy routine. In the mornings, when he comes down and plays a little before breakfast, the house is filled with shrieks of laughter.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, the other day, at the bookstore, he took a kaleidoscope out of the toy bin, and looked through it. He was a bit unimpressed. Then he was thinking... He picked up a little toy from another bin, and then looked through the kaleidoscope at it. This was very serious stuff, by the way. Then he picked up another little toy, and looked at that. He looked at the first one again. He picked up a third and looked at that. He was comparing the patterns different toys made.
He found a horse chestnut in the yard the other day, and stomped on it and hit it between two rocked until the picky skin broke off, and revealed the nut inside. He looked at it a bit. Then he found a hickory nut. Hmm..., you could see him think. Stomp stomp. Wow, this one has a nut inside too! It's a little different. He finds a hard acorn. Stomp stomp. His forehead wrinkles. The outside of this one is hard. He works at it a bit more, and cracks it open, to find that the inside of this is soft. Huh.
The Chief loves to listen to music, but you don't realize how much he really listens to it until one day he tells you that this song sounds just like ____ in one part, just like ___ in another. He finds this to be hilarious. And he can make the most interesting sounds with a water bottle, combining percussion and woodwind and voice... There is a pattern, a rhythm to everything, as far as he is concerned. He just has to find it. And he is determined to!
And of course, with all of this testing and experimentation, comes testing and experimentation with rules and conformity. WHY does he have to do that? It makes no sense to him. And he will make a decent argument about it. Discipline at times can be a challenge if I am not clever and quick on my feet. He could argue his way out of a bear trap. I could get very frustrated, I could yell, I could get angry and resist and I could even, in time, crush his will and STOP that testing.
But would I really want him to be any other way? Testing is testing. It can be positive and negative, but both are testing, and in the end, as long as there are set boundaries, and firm grounds, testing rules is exactly the same as testing the limits on a game. He will learn that he can only go so far. It may take a lot of experimentation on his part (and lots of patience on mine!), but like any other test, it is a learning experience. As long as the rules don't change, he will learn the boundaries and eventually not need to test anymore.
Parenting the Chief on a good day is a challenge (as it is with any child, on the "spectrum" or off). But I know that these tests will make him a stronger person when he is grown, and some day, after much trial and error, he will learn that by doing things a certain way, only the sky will be the limit. And it is making me a stronger, more patient and compassionate person as well!