Ryan loved electronic toys at a very early age. The sensory input of toys that beeped, lit up, and had cause and effect provided Ryan with more joy than any ball or Matchbox car every could. So, it was no surprise that video games would give Ryan unmitigated joy as well. Little did I know, that one day, that sensory buzz Ryan got from video games would supersede all things in life for him, except maybe donuts.
I admit, Ryan spends way too much time in front of a screen. If I had to appear before a judge and jury and the judge asked, "Does your son spend countless hours playing video games?", I would respond, "Guilty Your Honor". "Do you allow your son to pick up the Comcast remote as soon as he puts down the XBox controller? Lowering my head in shame, I would quietly mumble, "Guilty, Your Honor." "Even though, as his mother, you are aware that too many video games, too much television and too much screen time may impact his socialization, yet you still allow it?" Now trying to hide under the defense table, I would whisper "Guilty, Your Honor", but, before the jury left the courtroom to deliberate I would jump up from under the table and shout, "Guilty, by reason of insanity".
Before I would begin proving my insanity plea, like any good mother defending her case, I would try to place the guilt elsewhere to take the heat off of me and totally throw big brother Kyle under the bus, in an attempt to absolve my guilt and save my own a**. "Well, Your Honor, my son Kyle had the video game first, so naturally, his brother wanted to have a video game too. No, I did not buy the games for Kyle or Ryan, that jolly old elf named Santa Claus did." Just like the insanity defense is hard to prove in a court of law, proving that a 5 year old boy and Santa Claus are culpable in my negligent video game allowances would be equally as difficult to prove to the judge and to myself.
Since I know there is not a Judge in the land who would find Kyle or Santa guilty (have you seen Miracle on 34th Street?) of Ryan's video game obsession, I would absolutely plead the insanity defense to save my own sorry self. After all, defense attorneys try this defense when they believe their clients are "not responsible for his or her actions during a mental health episode." Uh, hello?
Suffice it to say, that when I watched Ryan struggle to play, to have friends, to "fit in", when I saw the joy video games gave him and how playing these games made Ryan seem "like all the other kids", I may have had a "mental health episode". I may have had a moment of temporary insanity where at the time of the purchase of a Gameboy, Nintendo DS, Wii, Wii Plus, iPod Touch, etc, etc I was "briefly insane at the time the acts were committed", blinded by my craziness to have Ryan "be like everyone else".
Temporary insanity legitimately kicks in during one of my "I love him, I accept him, but, I really still want him to fit in occasionally" mental health episodes. And during one of these episodes, I may be "briefly insane", as I commit acts such as signing Ryan up for baseball, soccer, or buying him countless video games in an attempt to have him "be like all the other kids".
Perhaps it was temporary insanity that lead Ryan and me down the dark, and evil video game path, but, insanity plea or not, what I was most assuredly guilty of back in those early days, was trying too hard for so long to make Ryan "fit in" as I constantly compared him to other kids. And in my defense, although there was and still is too much "screen time", video games is the one connector, the one link between Ryan and friends.
So if today, I had to appear in a court of law, after taking the oath and taking my seat in the witness stand, when the prosecutor asked, "Does your son play video games too much?", I would first ask if Apps on his iPod Touch count as "video games" before turning to the judge and telling him I would like to plead guilty, by reason of insanity.
Because today, I am still guilty for allowing Ryan too much screen time. I am insane because it makes me crazy that I can't get Ryan to go outside, learn to ride a bike, play a board game or read a book. I lose my mind worrying about his love of all things electronic and his lack of desire to socialize in the "real world". I look temporarily insane when my head spins around and I scream, "turn off that blankety blank, blank, blank video game right now" then 2 hours later after Ryan moans he is bored and has eaten an entire bag of Goldfish Crackers out of sheer boredom, asks, "Can I play my game now?" and I sweetly kiss him on the head and say, "Sure, but not too long". Cra-a-zy.
When Temple adamantly insisted on getting "these kids off the video games and out of the basement" I was so relieved because Ryan doesn't have video games in the basement, the xBox, Wii, WiiU and his Nintendo DS are all in his bedroom. As I breathed a sigh of relief Denial, who was sitting next to me, and I happily gloated that surely Temple wasn't talking to us. I looked around the room and saw loads of other mothers, mothers who put their kids video game systems in the basement, hiding their eyes, cowering under chairs and pretending that Temple was talking to someone else, not them.
As I listened to Temple describe her life, I realized that just like it is unfair for me to compare Ryan to other neurotypical kids, it is unfair for me to compare him to other kids with autism. It's true, like many kids with an ASD, Ryan needs more social time, and it's true that Ryan is obsessed with video games and has too much screen time, but, Ryan is still remarkably successful and happy. Yes, I need to work harder at increasing his interests outside of Minecraft and Mario Kart, but, I also need to stop going insane and feeling so guilty when I can't.
With Temple's video game lecture still ringing in my ears, I smiled to myself as I watched a slew of mothers pulling out their phones, excusing themselves to the restroom and doing everything, but, plugging their ears, to drown out Temple's words that rang all too true in their hearts. I realized that day, that if my insanity plea sticks, there are going to be a boat load of other mothers in the medication line with me at the psychiatric facility whether Temple likes it or not.