In my family, we pride ourselves on preaching the value of being different. In a household (and extended family) full of what could best be described as “quirky” individuals, we all get along just fine. But then sometimes the outside world comes along and rudely reminds us that being different is still something that is to mocked – a reason to be shunned.
Monkey is 10 now and its been a year and a half since we had his ADHD diagnosis. His was a pretty typical type of ADHD, with emotional rather than physical impulsiveness and an inability to stay focused unless it was something he was VERY interested in. He is doing unbelievably well on his meds and noticed the improvement so much that he demands his pill every morning before school.
Of course, being an ADHD kid who is also a bit quirky and a huge nerd has made him a target for some of the kids at school. He isn’t being beaten up or picked on necessarily. He has lots of friends and loves to run around and play outside with them. Where he has run into trouble is with kids mocking and devaluing the things he loves. Let me explain.
I may have mentioned before that Muppet makes video games for a living. He works for one of the major gaming companies in the world and his work is not only fun and rewarding, but lets him travel to places like San Francisco, LA and Paris. Pretty sweet.
So, like any boy his age, Monkey wants to be just like his dad. And honestly, he has a pretty good chance at pulling it off. He has natural artistic talent, an ability to create original structures out of Lego that blow my mind, and a creative mind that loves thinking of stories and scenarios. Recently he made a functioning gumball machine out of Lego.
He loves to play video games, of course. When he was 8 he created the entirety of Sponge Bob’s Bikini Village in Minecraft. He also created a functioning amusement park in the game with rides and attractions. He built houses with functioning rooms, giving thought to their livability. This kid has talent.
But, he also likes to talk about what he’s been doing to other kids and here’s where the problems start.
Imagine a mocking 10 year old boy voice.
“All you do is play video games.”
“Why would you spend all that time to do Lego?”
“Why do you spend all your time watching Youtube?”
“Who cares about that stupid game?”
He’s also a cautious kid who likes to think things through. This is the kid who only told me weeks later that he left the neighbour’s backyard and came home in a huff because the boys he was playing with were running their fingers through flame from a lighter they found as some kind of initiation into their backyard club.
“You need to be more brave.”
“Don’t be such a chicken.”
“See all these scabs on my knees. They didn’t hurt AT ALL.”
“Suck it up.”
We all know that kids are mean. That little boy bravado starts at an early age and it’s rough on the kids who don’t conform. What I would dearly love is for the parents of those kids to hear what their kids are saying. I want them to talk to their kids about the value of not following the crowd and how brave it is to do your own thing. I tell my own boys that all the time.
My kid has talent and I think he has the skills to do exactly what he wants to do in life. Devaluing his love of video games comes from that blanket idea that “video games are all evil and pointless.” I get that.
Maybe I would be the same way if I didn’t live with somebody who has obviously found his perfect job and who has intelligent discussions about how to make the industry more female friendly and less violent. It may interest them to know that our own kids aren’t allowed to play the very games that Muppet makes because we both strongly believe that those ratings are there for a good reason.
I would like them to know that creating video games takes artistic talent, knowledge of math and spacial relations, programming, creative writing abilities, a talent for narrative, and attention to detail that would astound most people. My kid has all those skills and one day he’s going to kick ass at whatever he wants to do. But for now, he’s just a 10 year old kid dealing with the mean, thoughtless words that come out of other kids’ mouths.