April 04, 2014

Too Much Interest?

I try not to judge other people's parenting too much, but this is something I just can't wrap my head around. There seems to be a certain subset of parents and therapists who believe a person can be "too interested" in something. So when this person becomes too interested, they take the thing they like the most away completely, or use it as a bribe and method to exert control over the other person. Just writing that out sounds icky to me.

There seems to be a belief that if someone becomes too attached to something, they will not learn to appreciate anything else. This is pretty ridiculous to me as a concept. People should be allowed to have preferences. I believe in teaching and introducing different concepts/toys/music/food/etc, but in the end, people will pick what they like best.

At the same time, there are times when society distinctly sees attachment to one thing as beneficial. The concept of monogamy functions in this way (I love you and no one else!), as does having a major in university (I will focus my studies!).

When it comes to the autistic brain, having an interest or strong preference brings comfort and control. When I know something, I know every single detail about it. The process of researching or getting to know a subject is fascinating, engrossing and relaxing. Some might say stimulating as well. Really knowing one thing makes that thing predictable. It is a way to feel some sense of control over an overwhelming and unpredictable world.

As a child, I was fascinated with how machines worked. I took things apart to study them and their inner workings closely. I could sit engrossed for hours. To this day, I can still sit for hours at my computer, completely focused. I get up to eat and pee. Often, I put both of those things off for as long as possible.
When it comes to my work life, this focus is beneficial. I will sit and plug away methodically until a task is done. I don't need breaks. I don't socialize. I don't waste time. I just work until it's time to go home. Then I happily return the next day. And I think the point is, while others would find this routine horrible, I'm quite happy. I take pride in my work and I like the fact I have this focus and methodical nature.

My son loves trains. Before he was born, I decorated his room with a jungle theme. I bought him stuffed giraffes and monkeys, and there were lions, tigers and elephants on his wall. However, he discovered trains and that was it. My decor ideas were thrown out the window and I bought Thomas decals instead. He can sit for hours playing with trains or watching train videos. He can name and identify all different types of trains. He can make different train sounds with his voice (it's pretty amazing actually, how real they sound). I have introduced him to other toys, but in the end, he still falls back on his trains. I know he is really happy. I don't really understand why someone would want to take away what makes their child the happiest in the world. Are they jealous?

Children are people. People who have interests that differ from yours. You may not be interested in the same things. That is ok, because each child is their own person and they are not extensions of you. Just like you can really love a certain TV series and get totally wrapped up in it, but still keep your day job, a child can be totally into one subject and still grow up and do other things. Having a singular interest as a child does not stop them from learning. Having a singular interest is not in competition for your love. Unless the interest causes real harm, even if you're not into it, sometimes as a parent (and being a mature, well-adjusted adult) you have to watch Dora the Explorer 15 hundred million times because it makes your child happy and comforted. In which case, put in some ear plugs and pull out that book you've read five times already.

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