Newtown really messed me up. I am not alone in this, of course. Only those with cold, hard hearts of stone could remain unaffected by Newtown. In the days following the shooting, I felt like I should post something, that I should have something meaningful or significant to say, but no, nothing. And now, nearly two weeks later, till nothing, no. I have plenty of emotions and feelings, but they seem small in scale and I can't figure out an eloquent way to express them and most of them have been expressed better by others already.
I have opinions about gun control and mental health access, but they are not revolutionary, surprising, or insightful. I will say that if the idea of arming classroom teachers with guns ever gains any traction, I will be homeschooling faster than you can say dumbest idea ever. See, gah, this is another reason I haven't written about this. I don't want some kind of Second Amendment self-defense debate in the comments because I'm sick of it, but I'm terrified by the fact that giving more people more guns is a "solution" that anyone is actually considering.
(In any case, who am I kidding, my readership is down far enough to make debate in the comments nigh impossible!)
That those children were the same age as Maddie and Riley made the Newtown shooting that much harder to bear. That one of the children who was killed was half of a twin pair, and that the other twin lived, hit ever too close to home.
Two days after the shooting, I took Maddie and Riley to visit some friends, another set of boy/girl twins. Riley fell asleep in the car on the way there. Upon arrival, I took Maddie and our stuff inside, then went back out to the car for Riley. He was sound, sound asleep, and it took a few seconds to rouse him. When he shuddered awake, he barely registered me, but immediately turned his head, saw Maddie's empty carseat, and yelped, "Maddie!" His heart was racing and his eyes were full of fear. I told him that Maddie was OK, that she was inside with our friends. He couldn't get inside fast enough to verify that with his own two eyes. I sometimes think that Riley is still not totally clear that he and Maddie are two separate people. It's touching, and fragile.
While I have certainly had my don't sweat the small stuff/children are precious/love every moment/hug them every chance you get reactions in the aftermath of Newtown, the truth is that Riley is driving me insane. He is so full of life, so funny and chatty and energetic. But he is also disrespectful, quick to blame others, and obsessed with videogames. And I wonder how much the videogames have to do with the disrespect and unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions.
Since some short time after the start of first grade, Riley has gone from a sweet, cuddly boy who I wanted to shrink down and carry with me at all times to . . . something else. The tone of his voice is usually bossy and snide, he contradicts me all the time (often just for sport, or so it seems), and the "I'm bored!" incantations are constant. I remind him constantly that the tone he's using and his word choice and body language are not acceptable; he says most things twice these days: once the way he seems to prefer, and once the way that is an acceptable way to communicate with others. It's exhausting to be constantly reminding him about how to use kind words and a respectful tone, to answer questions when he's spoken to.
As for the videogames, I allow Riley to have a limited amount of game time on approved games for either Wii or iPad/iPhone. During the usual school day routine, I'm pretty strict. Videogames are not a daily thing, and he has to do his homework before he can have that time if it's one of his days to have it (Tuesday and Thursday). Then it's limited to the time between when I get home and when dinner is served. I also let him play on my phone if we have a long wait at a restaurant, or if we're traveling by air.
That's all fine. What bothers me is his obsession with it all. At any opportunity, he's angling for MORE. He'll walk up to perfect strangers and look over their shoulders at what they are doing on their phones. When my dad comes to visit, Riley barely says hello before he asks if he can play on my dad's tablet. There are certain friends he'll beg me to see not because he wants to spend time with them but because he knows that those friends have videogames that he might get to play.
This is a type of play that's hard for me to like. It's upsetting to me when after opening a bunch of Christmas presents (Beyblades, board games, books), all he wanted to do was play on my dad's tablet. When I told him no, he actually said to me, "What am I supposed to do?" When I reminded him that he had gotten a bunch of new toys and offered to play a game with him, he sulked. The obsessive/exclusionary desire he has to play with electronics gives me a knee-jerk reaction not to let him do it at all, but then I worry about the forbidden fruit syndrome. Argh.
I try to set a good example about this. I keep my phone put away unless I hear a call/message or need to send one. Absolutely no phones at the table, for sure.
I just don't know how to take this interest and special kind of intelligence of his and use it for good. And I worry about how the gaming/electronics stuff is feeding the bad attitude he has had of late. Or are six year olds often testing limits and learning something by seeing what kind of reactions they get to this type of behavior? I could read books about this, I suppose, but here I am, asking the Internet. Internet, what do you have for me? How do those of you with kids this age (and older) manage the electronics? Do you know where my sweet boy went? How can I get him back?