Our wee grandson, Alfie, loves his music. His attention span is fleeting. A few seconds here, a few seconds there. And his frustration levels rise fast. You can tell when Alfie is frustrated. He clears surfaces. Pushes over small bits of furniture. Throws objects close to hand. It is tough being locked into a world where no one “gets you”.
I think I would be the same.
So both parents and school work together to seek new ways to extend his attention span. Because with an extending attention span comes interaction. And with interaction comes less frustration. With reduced frustration comes greater connection. Hello music.
Alfie loves music. His music. His playlists. An assumption made by an attention span that lasts and last. He doesn’t need to tell us. We see it as clearly as these letters on a page.
Not like the same assumptions made so often on Alfie’s behalf. Observations and assumptions made by experts. Like possible sight issues. Possible hearing problems. Because “testing Alfie” is usually inconclusive. Alfie can’t tell anyone what he sees or hears. So “solutions” are also a guess. But even with an elastic head band, Alfie dumps his spectacles faster than it takes to put them on. And his hearing aids … ? He has dropped them so many times no one knows where they are! And some time later expert opinion usually decides that “He probably doesn’t need those right now.”
Mum and Dad bought Alfie an mp3 player – rugged and child-proof (just not “Alfie-proof”). It did last quite a while before giving in to “Alfie-frustration” and “Alfie-chewing”. Background noise from his brothers … tracks not to his liking … having to carry this chunky thing around … having to put this chunky thing down. It’s tough being locked into a world where no one “gets you”.
So (in conversation with Mum and Dad) we offered a Christmas alternative. A blue-tooth enabled player with a separate blue-tooth enabled speaker. And we have. And we downloaded enough Alfie-music for hours of listening. And we tested it. We hung the speaker out of reach. And Alfie stands and looks longingly at the speaker. And he listens. But we know he wants so much more. It’s in his eyes. He wants the music in him. But it is what it is (and way better than no music).
Then last night all three boys and Mum had dinner here, followed by a bath and pyjamas, followed by cuddles and chats, followed by Dad arriving from work. It’s a regular thing. And then near to bedtime, they all get in their car and go home.
Except after bath-time last night, Alfie joined me in my (home) office. “Moosek … ?” he asked. And as I still had the folder of (mp3 transferred) “moosek” on my desktop, I was happy to oblige. Alfie sat on my knee and I used the mouse to keep up with his playlist: “Tumble … ? Meer Bloom … ? Gigglebiz … ? Miaow … ? Gigglebiz … ?” over and over.
Then – for no reason at all – I slid my own (over ear) headphones onto Alfie’s head and plugged him in. I couldn’t hear the music. I could only gauge Alfie’s response (and wait for the inevitable hurling of the “how very dare you” headphones from his head). Except Alfie didn’t. And we sat and we sat. Together.
So I tried something else. I swapped the computer for the Christmas-pressie-mp3 player (loaded with the same music) and plugged him in. He was now unhooked from the computer. And still we sat and sat. Still no “how very dare you”.
So I tried something else. I slid Alfie off my knee and invited him to walk downstairs with me. He was reluctant at first. There are times you can almost see/hear Alfie thinking: “Moosek from the computer” … “Gwanda leaving computer” … “No more moosek” … “Like moosek” … “Best stay here and stay with the moosek” …
Alfie may be locked into a world where we don’t get him – but he gets us most of the time. But getting used to being free – that isn’t just a Alfie-thing. That takes some getting used to – no matter who you are!)
So with some encouragement the distance between computer and Alfie extended. “Still moosek … ” We got to the stairs. “Still moosek … “ Down the stairs. To the living room and everyone else. “Still moosek … “ And now Alfie had moosek without all the “everyone else” background noise. “Still moosek … “
So Mum tucked the mp3 player into the back of his pyjamas and Alfie danced. Alfie jigged. Moosek went with Alfie and Alfie went with moosek! From room to room. And back again! Dancing. Jigging. Walking. Standing still. The moosek was in him and he in it.
(And now Mum and Dad are on the lookout for blue-tooth enabled child (over ear) headphones for Christmas!)
It was a (big!) lump-in-the-throat kind of evening.
“Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” “ Matthew 11:28-30
Hello God Soft Hands Jesus.
How often do you not get me, Paul? Alfie “got it” last night. You “got it” this morning in these verses …
My yoke is your freedom.
And when you accept my yoke and learn from me … “moosek” goes with you (and you go with the “moosek”). And – just like Alfie – it takes some getting used to. And – just like Alfie – when you do “get it” … You will also join the dance. Because when you are free – what else is there to do but dance?
Happy Christmas, Paul!
I love you.