“We have to do this! You have to help me!”
OK. I knew I had to remain calm, but this was not starting off well. Both my kids have a terrible aversion to having me help them with their homework. I try not to take it personally, but I do wonder what it is about my style of helping them that is so off putting. Perhaps I am too much of a perfectionist. I’m not sure.
We went to the dining room where we could sit at the table together. I read him the article as his head lay buried in his arms on the tabletop.
“I don’t get it!” I explained. Still calm, sort of marveling at how far I had come since Olivia used to pull the same behaviour on me. I looked at the worksheet that was broken into the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW classifications.
“OK, who is the article about?” No answer. I took the pencil and highlighted the name of victim. “You will need to write this name in this section, and also these names,” I said, highlighting now the two people who were now being charged with invasion of privacy. No response. “I can’t do this for you.” I walked into the kitchen to begin making dinner. “When you are ready I am here.”
There was wailing, breaking of pencils, crumpling of paper. I remained calm. I encouraged. I cajoled. I sat down again and went through every single item until he had them all written out. Then it came time to writing a summary using the information he had just written down.
“Easy,” I said. “It’s all right here.” Logical. Reasonable. Calm. More wailing. “You can do this.”
“I can’t!” he screamed. It’s stupid! I hate this! And you’re not helping at all!”
“OK,” I said, “just tell me what you would like me to do.”
“I don’t know!”
“I am trying my hardest to help you, but you have to help too.” I don’t know why I was trying to reason at this point. He was way beyond reason.
“Please don’t be rude,” I said after he threw his pencil at me. I could feel my clam ebbing. The noise in the room was at rock concert level. I don’t do well with loud.
“Let’s put this away and do it later. I am not going to tolerate this kind of behaviour.”
“Then let’s do some reading.”
It got worse. Spiraling into a place where I realized I was going to have to punish the behaviour. There is nothing that he cares about more than his computer and so I said it.
“If thisÂ behaviour doesn’t stop, I am going to take away your computer for the night.” The wailing reached fever pitch. It might not have been the right tactic, I’m not sure. I realize now he thought he was being punished for not being able to do the homework. But really it was for the rudeness, the disrespect. The behaviour morphed into a kind of begging.
“You can’t take my computer away! I won’t let you!”
But I did. As the behaviour got worse the days of no computer grew. I now have custody of the computer for a week. And here’s the kicker: I don’t know if *I* can do this. I realize I am just as addicted to him entertaining himself on his computer as he is addicted to using it.
But I’m glad it has come to this.
“It’s so boring here! There is nothing to do after school!” he complained. And I realized he was avoiding all the things kids normally do when they are not tethered to a computer. Hang out with friends, join teams, read, play with other toys or games. Frankly I blame the fact that he refuses to read on his excess computer use. Why read when you can watch YouTube? But it’s affecting his school work and I am honestly wondering if there is a learning issue now. Or is it just excess computer use?
After the implosion, I had a meeting at The Healing Center with other widows and widowers so I got to tell my story. I was able to calm down. Afterwards one of the women who has children of similar ages to mine came up to me and told me she has the same problem with computers. That she doesn’t know what to do about it either. I told her how I lie awake at night worrying about the fact that my children are addicted to their computers and she admitted to the same thing. I am certain we are not alone.
But in all honesty, I don’t know what to do about it. Will taking the computer away for a week change things? Is it feasible to limit computer use? What happens when I have to leave him alone in the house? I feel like married parents have this figured out and that its us single parents who are floundering around, using the computer as a crutch, happy for the extra time that we are granted. But I don’t think this is only a single parent issue. It’s a parent one.
I’m open to suggestions…