My son Gabriel makes me weak in the knees.
He is just about the sweetest boy you could imagine. True, I am his mother, and my objectivity is questionable, but he is really extraordinarily sensitive to the feelings of others. He asks me regularly about my day, and when I tell him what I did, he asks probing follow-up questions that let me know that not only is he listening to me when I tell him, but that he is genuinely interested in what I do with my time when he is not around.
When I come home from a yoga class, he likes to discuss what poses we did. Similarly, when I plan my classes, he wants to know what I'm planning to teach, and often offers (sometimes very helpful) suggestions for sequencing.
His capacity for empathy is remarkably developed for a six-year old boy. When a friend of mine was having marital troubles last year, he would ask her on occasion how she was, and if she was feeling lonely. A few months ago, when a friend of my daughter's died suddenly, in trying to make sense of something so incomprehensible, he said to me, "Her family must be having a sad party."
Today he had a play date with a classmate that he had been looking forward to for some time. His friend, who has been in his class for two years now, is disabled, and does not come to school on a daily basis. She links into the class regularly, and comes in to school about once a week. He expressed interest in getting together with her a while ago, and persistently nagged me, and his friend's mother until we finally made it happen.
Being a boy, Gabriel is also keenly interested in video games. To hear him speak, you would think he lives in Mario World. For him, the boundaries between the his virtual world and the world-world are permeable. Apropos of nothing, he will drop tidbits into our conversations such as, "Rainbow Road is the hardest of all because because there are so many traps, but once when I did it I beat it all and came in first place." His playground games are often based on video games; he recently explained that at recess he played a mini-game of Freeze, a variation of tag, cribbed from Mario Party 8, which involved being stuck on an iceberg, and when you become unstuck, you may move around for one minute.
Gaming brings out an addictive quality in him that is a bit alarming; he often has trouble thinking about what to do, he is so preoccupied with when he'll next get to play. When he plays, he enters a trance state, and would forgo food and drink for the sake of a game. Because of these tendencies, we limit his gaming time to 15 minutes a day, and work hard to encourage him to pursue other childhood pursuits...like daydreaming, reading comic books, and playing outside.
He has video games on the brain the way I imagine teenage boys are preoccupied with sex.
When friends come over all they want to do is play Wii. And while I recognize that gaming is a serious bonding mechanism among boys, I do not want him to spend all his time with his friends gaming, so I limit them 20 minutes toward the end of a play date. This does nothing to stop them from asking, incessantly, "Is it TIME yet?"
He is genuinely interested in this friend, in part because he recognizes, and is fascinated by the ways in which she is different. Her car has a ramp in the back for wheelchair access, which he thinks is the coolest thing ever. I don't think he knew this when he asked us to arrange the play date, but because his friend has limited mobility, their time together would involve playing with Pokemon cards, and video games. This was to be an afternoon of gaming not just in breadth, but in depth. While we just have a Wii, Gabriel informed me that his friend has a Game cube (I have no idea what that is), as well as a Nintendo DS.
So while I work hard to set limits to his gaming at home, here he was going, with our blessing, to a play date more or less devoted to gaming. He was beside himself with excitement.
When he came home, I asked him how his play date was.
"Great!" he said, with a smile of supreme satisfaction that bordered on post-coital. Were he a teenager, I'd would have immediately realized OH MY GOD MY SON JUST HAD SEX, and then informed his father that it was time to have A TALK.
Because he is six, it is all sweetness and innocence. But now that I've heard that tone of voice, as he gets older, I'll be keeping my ears tuned for that frequency.