Who’s Bored?

I grew up an only child.  My son is growing up an “only child” in his house.  He has two half siblings on his dad’s side but they were adults when he was born and are not living in the same house.

Yeah, that's me.

When I was growing up as an only child, I drove my mom crazy in many ways.  One of those ways was repeatedly telling her, “I’m bored.” I wanted a sibling to play with.  I was “bored” when my friends were away.  I wanted my mom and dad to play games with me.

I was thinking about that over the long holiday weekend when I was with my son, 24-7.  I did play with him, but I had chores and Christmas decorating, and a tiny thing called grooming, in which I like to engage, that prevented that at times.

The strange truth is that I seemed to mind more than he did.  My son is adept at keeping himself amused.  He spends a lot of his time with all manner of electronic devices, most of which run on batteries.  Toy cars, iPad, Nintendo DS, a PacMan joystick that plugs into a monitor,  a cheap plastic push button candy fan to name a few.  (This reminds me that I need stock in DuraCell.)

One day, we were out driving around, and he left the iPad “on” in the car so the battery died.  (He also never really closes out the apps so I think they drain the battery as well).  “The battery’s dead.” he tells me.  There was a time that such an incident could have triggered quite a tumultuous meltdown.  Didn’t happen at all.  He simply shared the information and then quietly sat looking out the window.

I kept checking the rear view mirror.  He kept looking out the window, talking to himself a bit.  We have a DVD player in the car and Spongebob was playing but he was not actively watching it.  He was doing his thing.  Inside his mind.

I don’t know what happens in there, but it seems like a really good place to be.  He is happy there.  Sometimes, when he is there, I can reach him.  Sometimes, his phone is off the hook.  Either way, the one thing I know is that he is never “bored.”  Is he different from other kids that way?  I don’t know.  I just know, as far as that goes, he is nothing like I was.

When he plays on his own, he speaks at a volume that is just low enough that I cannot make out many of the words he uses.  He is not speaking to me, or anyone other than himself, but he’s quite busy processing something or another.  There is no room for boredom.  And nearly all the time, there is a cock of the head and a smile.

The famous turn of the head...

Sometimes, I will just watch, silently, in the background.  His facial expressions are often animated, emphatically insisting on this point or that to himself.  Sometimes, he will sit, surrounded by all kinds of toys, but playing with not a single one.  He will be repeating sentences, engaged in echolalia, processing something from weeks ago.  He may be laying around squeezing an old pillow or lying on a bed or chair.  Often, he is like a tape recorder, playing back conversations we had weeks or months ago and repeating them over and over.

He is restless, easily distracted.  He moves through his interest in something so quickly, I’ve barely focused on it before he is on to something else.  Some people think this is a sign of ADHD.  I’m not so sure.  He is a quick study when he wants to be.  I have a strong suspicion that he intellectually strips things of their utility in his eyes, and once the use is fulfilled, he moves on.  With some things, it happens so fast, it is like a blur.

With other things, my son will obsess.  He will study something for hours, weeks, days and months.  He will play the same thing over and over.  He will slow it down, repeat it out loud, turn it over in his mind and eventually discard or shelve it for something else.

Often, I see him living out a past moment like it’s happening in the now – and who knows?  Maybe it is, and I’m the one who can’t see it.  It’s all in your perspective.  Regardless of what he is doing, or how he processes it, he is not with me at those times.  He is somewhere else.  And he is not bored.

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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12 Responses to Who’s Bored?

  1. Little Miss also does that thing where she plays with something, talking all the while in a voice too low to be heard. I long for a glimpse of what is really going on, but all I end up with are carefully-constructed lines of Little People and bags of useless(?) unconnected(?) items.

    Our children are truly amazing creatures, aren’t they?

  2. Jen says:

    Aww…I love the pictures. You were such a pretty little girl! And I can’t help notice that T is still in his 5 point harness car seat. I’m thinking of switching to a booster but I’m not sure if my guy will try to escape with just a seatbelt. I should probably keep him restrained in the car for as long as possible, huh? Plus I think the 5 point harness is safer.
    Anyway, have you ever given T his own recorder, even on the Ipad? My guy thinks it’s great to hear himself talk.

    • solodialogue says:

      Thanks Jen! He is still in that 5 point and it’s weird you bring that up because my hubs was just talking about that the other day… I will have to look into how long they stay in those. T has recorded himself but he passed through that phase in about a week… It was cute while it lasted because he spent so much time giggling about it! 🙂

  3. I second Jen above with seeing if he’ll record himself. Pudding finds her own voice endlessly fascinating, which is how I know we’ve found the best birthday present ever for her!
    I was a very aloof, in my own head, day-dreamy kind of child, and I was never bored in the way that my brothers seemed to be. Even now, I welcome alone time.
    It was awesome that he handled the battery drain so well! And, as always, I love the pictures. Love how short the dresses were our mamas put us in! 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      I can just see Pudding with a recorder playing “Jimmy” over and over! Perhaps this could be an answer to your own dilemma!

      Interesting that you were a day-dreamy child, although right now who wouldn’t like a little alone time? 😉 And those dresses our mamas put us in? That is funny! I was thinking the same thing when I posted it.

  4. blogginglily says:

    I always feel like I should be spending more time with the kids. Emma (the elder) notices moreso than Lily does. But it’s nice to jump (gently) on the inflatable mattress with Lily when she says, “Now daddy take a turn!”

  5. Lana Rush says:

    I have to tell you that when I first saw your blog title – I thought, “Not me!”. I always tell me big girls how I LONG to be bored….. how wonderful it would be to just be bored….

    I love my alone time and so do my big girls. Even though Lily is still nonverbal, she lets us know loud and clear on occasion that she wants to be in her room with no one else for a little while. All kids need to learn how to entertain themselves for a bit and it sounds like T has got that down just fine.

    And – that first picture… precious! So thoughtful! I just want to lean down and listen to what little “secrets” he’s telling in that low, quiet voice. Of course, they’re all cute because he’s such a model but that first one…. 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      I know how nice it would be to be bored now – eh? There’s a lost art form. (Lol!)

      T has definitely got the entertaining self down – I wish the school would grade for that one! Thanks for the kind words about his photo. I get that look from him a lot. 🙂

  6. Aspie Mom says:

    I love to hear this language you are using about your son’s world. Yes, it is a busy, incredibly interesting place.
    We tell the teachers, “He lives on Planet T; he just comes here to visit.”

  7. ElizOF says:

    He had an active interior life and that is not a bad thing… If he’s smiling and happy that is great. 🙂

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