“But what can I do?”
No parent wants to here those phrases from their kids. Especially not when you’re trying to work from home and you know that for your son on the autism spectrum, a cure for boredom is not easily found.
I ran through the checklist of Ryan’s favorite activities, meeting rejection each time.
Hockey Guys, NHL2K, street hockey … all received a quick “no!”
I branched out. Why don’t you read? Ryan had actually done some voluntary reading on our recent vacation, a real landmark development for him.
“I already read today,” came the reply.
What about playing with his sister? This was met with another quick rejection from Ryan and an eye-roll from Riley.
I thought about giving up, but I knew what that would mean — an interruption from Ryan every few minutes asking the same question. As I really was trying to work, this was not a good option. I decided that there was an opportunity for a teachable moment here.
“If you’re bored with all your favorite activities, maybe it’s time to try something new,” I told him. “Or at least something you haven’t done in a long time.”
I’ve attempted this before. It usually goes over about as well as a suggestion to play Barbie would. That is, not well.
Maybe it’s a little bit of a softening of Ryan’s “rock brain.” Maybe he really had just reached the point of boredom that he was willing to give something a try. Whatever the reason, he didn’t say no. He said, “like what?”
A-ha. An opening.
I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. Recalling a nice time a few months ago when I had gotten both of them to play Wii golf, I said, “why don’t you play something different on the Wii?”
Riley’s eyes lit up. She excitedly said they should play Wii Sports Resort, a many-games-in-one package that includes golf, bowling, wake boarding, and more.
Ryan said yes, and then surprised me even more by suggesting they take turns picking sports to play within the game. Riley, who has been rejected many, many times for making the same suggestion, raced to the basement to set up the game.
And with that, they were off. Table tennis, archery, basketball and yes, golf. It lasted for perhaps two hours with barely a disagreement. This is not a common occurrence in our house.
I was thrilled to hear Ryan playing Wii golf. He used to love the game. Before hockey became a consuming obsession for him, he loved golf. He used to create female Mii characters and have them do horribly on purpose so his male Mii, named “Buttface” would win by a wider margin. When he graduated from simple Wii golf to the Tiger Woods game, he would do the same thing, only playing as Tiger against the LPGA pros in the game like Natalie Gulbis.
He even went as Tiger Woods for Halloween one year. Golf club, red golf shift, black Tiger Woods Nike hat. This was the Halloween just before Tiger’s infamous SUV crash at Thanksgiving. I guess we weren’t too disappointed when his golf interest faded shortly thereafter. I really wasn’t relishing a trying to explain Tiger’s personal downfall. I don’t think that Tiger Woods game has been touched since. But here he was, playing Wii golf as Buttface, and doing quite well. For those unfamiliar with the Wii platform, it requires you to hold the remote and swing it as you would a golf club. Only Ryan never played that way. Through hours of repetition, he learned how to precisely control his shots simply by shaking the remote in his hands. He actually got quite good at it. I tried his method and couldn’t come close to repeating his success. Back when he was playing a lot, I couldn’t beat him even by swinging conventionally.
So it was a thrill for me to see him playing the same way after barely touching the game for years. He was rusty, but still not bad. And there was no need to intentionally have one of the female Miis do poorly this time, he was dominating his real-life sister.
Of course, there was a new twist. Ryan loves to do play-by-play for his Hockey Guys or a backyard game of street hockey. His style is very much that of Doc Emrick, his voice rising to a crescendo as the action increases. He has watched so much hockey that he has picked up a lot of nuanced phrases and cliches that he mixes in to his calls. He’s also loud. Very, very loud. He does everything at top volume, and his inability to temper his voice level leads to many, many arguments in our house.
As I set working on my laptop the other day, happy that the kids were playing together without fighting, I heard it: Ryan was doing his signature play-by-play, practically yelling.
Only this wasn’t hockey. It was golf. As annoying as the volume was, I couldn’t help but laugh. The sound of him yelling like Emrick over golf action was so perfectly absurd. “Riley putting … and she puts it JUST WIDE!!!!!!”
I decided I must capture this. I opened the basement door and stuck out my iPhone to make a voice recording. Here, listen for yourself. This is but a small sample, but you get the idea.
Now, I enjoy golf on television. I don’t mind the hushed whispers of the announcers. I do find it ridiculous that anyone could describe a downhill putt on a fast green as “courageous,” but that doesn’t hurt my enjoyment of the sport.
But as I listened to Ryan, I thought that this style off announcing might improve the sport on television immeasurably.
Somehow, I don’t think it’s an idea that’s going to gain much traction.
I’ll settle for it curing a case of boredom one afternoon.