My older son, James, turns 4 on Saturday. I can hardly believe it's been four years already. At the same time, however, I can't believe it hasn't been more than four. For as dear as my little James is to me, I am constantly challenged by him. Because he is my first. And every new thing he does is something I haven't seen before. It can be cute and funny and rewarding--but it can also be exhausting and perplexing and frustrating.
I suppose my real problems have arisen quite recently; James was the easiest kind of baby there is. He could sit happily in a swing while I went to the bathroom or cooked dinner. He rarely cried without a good reason. I couldn't help thinking, way back then, that parenting a newborn wasn't as difficult as I was expecting (then #2 came along, and boy, did he prove me wrong).
When James was a toddler, the story was much the same. While I sometimes worried about him, wanting to make sure he met his "milestones" when he should, there still weren't many problems. He was easy to discipline and listened exceptionally well. The terrible twos were markedly mild, and on the whole the threes have been fairly uneventful.
But now, my little one, my first born, is swiftly changing from toddler in to boy. Sometimes I'm shocked at how much of a little personality he has--how grown up he seems. And then I realize, it's just that he's not a baby anymore. And I think we're both having some problems with the transition.
A month or so ago, James started changing in a way I didn't like at all. He has become increasingly moody, lazy, and disinterested in the world around him. It's like pulling teeth to get him to play with a toy, and he can quite often be found brooding on the couch, thumb in mouth, pouting that he can't watch TV.
Initially I chalked this up to my own lack of energy in the preceding months. I wasn't the same Mommy I used to be from August to October. We didn't do nearly as much as normal, because I was having severe, all day "morning" sickness. We did a lot more sitting in the grass reading books than we did running around the park. I thought once I started feeling better and got us out of the house more, he'd snap out of it.
The opposite has been true. The problem was exacerbated when my husband introduced him to his XBox. This was a terrible choice for a child that's already obsessed with sitting on the couch; I wish I would have protested it. But, I must be honest, it was nice to see a spark of happiness in his eyes, and it was terribly cute how excited he got to play "Lego the Company," (as he calls the Lego: Indiana Jones video game his dad gave him to play).
Video games have now become an obsession. I've been setting limits and denying him, but our days are peppered with requests to play the game. I spend more time thinking of other things for him to do than I ever have before. I feel like we're sinking, and I'm afraid I don't know the way out of this hole. His moodiness has gotten worse, and it's hard to get him out of his little fog of electronic bliss. He doesn't even get excited to see his grandparents anymore--and they're the kind that hide candy in your pockets and bring you toys every time they visit.
I was thinking last night, as I lay in bed worrying about this problem, that this is our first real "big boy" struggle. He's developing distinct interests, and problems like this are bound to come up again. I'm not always going to like how he chooses to spend his time, and I have a feeling we'll spend quite a bit of time struggling over it.
For now, I'll keep denying and keep trying to get him interested in less reclusive activities. But I think both of us have a long road before we totally figure this out. We start ice skating lessons on Saturday, and he's getting a slew of actual Legos and other real toys for his birthday on Sunday. I'm hoping something catches his interest and helps me wean him from his video game addiction.
I'm definitely open to suggestions. But please, curb the judging on why I let my 4-year-old play video games in the first place. I'm still trying to figure out why I let that happen.