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He Doesn't Care

Posted Oct 12 2012 10:54pm
We think we know what to teach our kids, but most of the time we are not even paying attention.

My son likes to ride on trains. We have taken many GO train trips, and the last time we went I decided to take some pictures and got him to stick them in some file folders. I printed out simple sentences about each that he could read. This has taken a few days, as we do a little every day. He has enjoyed that book and asked to read his "GO Train book".

Today I decided it might be a good idea to paint a picture of the GO train so we can add it to our growing book. He has been taking art lessons on weekends and coming home with some interesting work.

I know he likes to draw. He draws amazing things from his imagination and memory. Here are some pictures he has drawn over the last few months, that I managed to take a picture of.

He did a really great job of painting the GO train drawing I did, but couldn't overcome the urge to peel the wet paper and rip the picture. I found myself deeply frustrated by this simple act of not caring about the finished product. Made me realize that K doesn't really care about the things he makes or draws in the same way that we do. He doesn't place value on anything he has created, except that it may serve a function. A Lego truck can be played with later. A created book can be read later. But a painting? What can you really do with it? A craft? Or any such object that has no functional value, has no purpose to him and therefore no value.

Why do we display a painting, or save it? To admire it. To have others admire it. He has no desire to attain the admiration of others, he only has the desire to do a job well. He painted it well and that was it. He felt like ripping bits of it, and he did. It didn't upset him, and yet it upset me. I couldn't hide my disappointment. I gently told him painting was all done and he had to go find something else to do.

I sat there sulking and reflecting on the point of this whole exercise. Why did I want to make something in the first place? To do something together, to share some attention, to spend time together. We did all those things, but my attachment to the end product was clearly greater than my main goal, because as the end product got damaged, I ended the activity and therefore gave up on my goal.

I want to give up on several of my goals many times, for these reasons. He is not interested. He doesn't care. I have to make it interesting, but can I make it valuable to him? Only he has the choice or power to do that. I cannot bring value to objects or goals, no matter how interesting or beautiful I try to make something. He is the owner of his heart and his interest.

He has autism. He doesn't seek the admiration from a hanging painting. Is this something noble to be admired? Or is it some kind of deficiency in his human-ness?

Of course a little while he found me and said he wanted to do Go Train painting. I knew he would try to rip bits again, but who cares really. If he doesn't mind, then I don't care (too much). So he tried a few times, I explained I liked his painting and didn't want him to rip it. He dutifully drew the tracks and wheels on the picture to complete it. It was for me, to "make it right with mom".

He only seemed genuinely engaged when I suggested we write Green GO Train on the picture, listening to the sounds as I broke down the words with my voice and he "guessed" the spelling. "Train" I had to spell for him and it was interesting because once he actually wanted to do something, he completely accepted my role as guide to help him accomplish what he wanted to do: to write.

Who is the teacher again?

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