Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Be the machine

I’ve been trying to understand for several months why Buddy Boy wants to be a machine or an inanimate object. I think if I can “Grok” this it might help me to see things thru his eyes a bit better.

Although Buddy Boy has rarely voiced a desire to be a particular type of person (he used to always say he wanted to be a farmer when he grew up) for the past year or so he’s always wanted to be some sort of machine (or occasionally an inanimate object). When I say that I would like to have a Ferrari someday (hey, I can dream, can’t I?) Buddy Boy will say that he wants to be a fast car when he grows up. He doesn’t want to fly a plane, he wants to be a plane.

I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad thing. Buddy Boy has always had a fascination with anything mechanical. Sometimes he’s obsessed about them (he could stare for hours at conveyor belts), but mostly I think he’s intrigued by them. As long as he doesn’t totally shut out everything else, we think this is great. We took a long drive in the country a couple of autumns ago, in search of combines in the field. We found some working near enough to the road to get some pictures, and had one of the pictures made into a puzzle that he still gets out and uses today.

Sometimes I think that Buddy Boy's wanting to be a machine is just a bit of magical thinking on his part. But mostly I wonder if Buddy Boy is so into the things he likes that he totally identifies with the machine or object. In so doing, the only way to really understand the machine is to be the machine.

Sometime this identification with things is a bit maladaptive. Buddy Boy has a hard time allowing us to wash his clothes in a washing machine. He hides his dirty clothes in his favorite hiding places to protect them from the washing machine. His offered compromise is that he says we can wash them only if we hand wash them. While I think it’s great that he offers to negotiate (negotiation as a preferred method of getting something, as opposed to screaming, grabbing, and hitting are all things we have been working on), it’s just not realistic to expect Liz to wash all of his clothes by hand. So we revert to a bit of diversion and subterfuge, putting the clothes aside and promising not to wash them then. Later, when he’s not watching, we throw them in the washer. When asked by him later if we washed them in the washer, we tell him yes, and he seems OK with that.

But other than instances like this, I don’t see any real harm with him wanting to be a machine (or an object). If being so focused on something that you want to be that thing can help you understand it, then maybe the heightened understanding gained from this experience will help in designing better machines. Only time will tell. Until then, anyone with a spare Ferrari in their garage, feel free to send it my way.

Joe is 209


abfh said...

You may have a budding transhumanist on your hands. ;-)

Club 166 said...

To be, or to be better, that is the question...

kristina said...

Charlie has often imitated the noises of machines (the garage door opener) much more readily; unlike the human voice, they do not change...... he is anxious when I wash his blanket, so we've been working on that (it got washed today). He's got a bit of a preference for jazz, too, which referred to me the other day as the music of the industrial age, of cities and urbanity.

On a more organic note, your mention of combines and farming brings back strong memories of driving amid fields in the Midwest---I think Charlie would do well, actually, on a farm; he likes the outdoors and being physically active.

Club 166 said...

I guess Buddy Boy's on your wavelength, AB. I walk into the house tonight, and the first words out of his mouth to me are (in a machine like monotone):

"I am a robot. I am a robot from outer space".

Then a bit later, he reminds me that we did not go to the state fair this past summer (I thought we had, but he's probably right). He loves the rides (they have a chair lift that you can ride over the midway) and the machinery.
"But I don't like the smells of the pee and poop, Dad".

"But I thought you want to be a farmer? How are you going to be a farmer without smelling the smells?"

"I'll get used to the smells. I want to plant crops and take care of animals. I'll teach the animals to pee and poop in a toilet. I can speak to animals, you know. Especially elephants (makes elephant sound)". I was cracking up.

abfh said...

Oh my, the visual image of toilet training an elephant -- too funny! What an imagination he has!