Even though he was not listening in class, or using technology appropriately, I literally laughed out loud when I read that text from his special education teacher. All I could think was, “Go Ian!” If he could successfully locate Dominos online, place an order, and have it delivered to school, he could have that damn pizza. I would even pay for it! After all, he succeeded in learning yet another functional life skill- which is what we wanted, right? Though the pizza ordering incident makes him seem more like an advanced teenager, the reality is we (Chad, Grace and I) have been raising a six year old for eight years.
Ian is not always exhibiting first grade behavior, but when he is acting his age, he is often too smart for his own good. We are like undercover CIA agents who are constantly one step ahead, researching new ideas, and always being prepared for his next surprising feat. During our years of duty, we have learned to never underestimate Ian, even though on a daily basis one of us is summoned to assist with personal hygiene. Aka, wiping his butt or explaining why shampoo is important.
We are always thinking about what skills he needs for the future and becoming an adult. For this reason, a functional skills class was added to Ian’s schedule. After all, it certainly made more sense to work on cooking, cleaning and hygiene, as opposed to his participation in World Studies. A course like this is much more applicable for a typical student who has already learned certain skills that might take Ian years to develop.
There is a fine line between teaching Ian something new that provides independence, yet does not allow him to take advantage of a situation. Using technology to advance his own personal agenda would top this list.
No matter what device, Chad’s Kindle, the Mac in the kitchen or his own ipad, he is more tech savvy than us adults. He has yet to master third grade math, but who needs that when you are capable enough to run your world from an ipad.
When he was young, the ipad was purchased solely as a communication device with a speech app to help Ian talk and share his emotions. As he grew and became more savvy, it turned into a portal for ordering toys on Amazon and calling anyone on Facetime at 5 am. Sure, the ipad has its place for playing innocent games and indulging in reality TV shows; however, we still find him sneaking on to WWE to watch the latest wrestling smack-down. Despite all of our efforts, he has found ways to hack into the settings and change his password so that we are unable to get in. Of course he then brags about it and refuses to reveal this new, creative password. As a result, multiple times we have had to return the ipad to its factory settings – a dirty word in my book.
For our survival, we have learned more about the ipad and parental controls than we ever knew possible or even imagined. Again, CIA training comes to mind here. We have truly become experts in setting time limits, increasing restrictions and even hiding apps from Ian. In doing so, we sometimes cannot locate them ourselves – considering our memories are not that great anymore. Ian, on the other hand, has a scary good memory that surprises us and others. Lesson: do not tell Ian any code or password…ever.
Speaking of memorized codes. A few years ago, our neighbor showed up at our door with an odd look on her face. She explained, “Recently I have been coming home after work to an open garage door. Then I walk inside and the back patio is open so our pets are outside. I know I closed both doors before leaving for work, but of course I began to second guess myself. After three or four times, it was beginning to concern me.” She continued to describe how one night during their family dinner, without warning the garage door opens and through the door bounds Ian, as if he lives there. “Hi folks!” he blurts out.
In that moment, all of the mysterious events going on in their house made sense. Apparently her boys told Ian the garage code and underestimated him – which we all do – figuring he would probably forget. I wonder if all the times we allowed him the freedom to go unsupervised to play with the boys, he was actually entering their house and setting their creatures free to roam around the neighborhood. Needless to say, they changed their garage code and have never told him again. We were once again reminded of how much supervision he needs.
Sometimes the freedom we allow him backfires on us. For example, biking alone to the school a few blocks away comes to mind. Once again, we are attempting to give him freedom, like other kids his age. So he takes off, with a tracking tile on both the bike and backpack so we can locate him; yet he is unable to handle using the walkie-talkie to tell us he is safe. He keeps his finger pressed on the button. Over and over all we hear is, “Dad, can you hear me? Dad, can you hear me?” At least we know he’s alive. However, we often deploy agent Grace in her black car and sunglasses to stake out the situation from a few blocks away.
Remember, this is the child who memorizes the neighbors’ garage code, but yet he’s not able to communicate with us using a simple walkie-talkie. Though this form of communication is quite ‘old school,’ a cell phone is just not an option. He is smart enough to know that this is the age most kids have cell phones so he has been asking. Unfortunately, he cannot yet be trusted with this much control. We wouldn’t put it past him to call Japan or dial 911- which he has accomplished numerous times. I think every police officer in Hudson knows Ian by name. There has yet to be an actual emergency, but Ian just thinks it might be fun to have a squad car or two arrive at his house. With the cell phone option on hold for at least another year, I guess we will have to work on walkie-talkie 101.
He may not be able to use simple technology, but watch out when it comes to Nintendo Switch and Wii. Despite the amount of reading and strategy to play many of these games, he can maneuver through levels with ease, while I’m not even sure how to turn the system on. I have, however, finally outsmarted him at his own game. I have three words for you – Alexa Smart Plug. This comes in handy when he absolutely refuses, under any condition, to stop and do what we are asking. He is bigger and stronger, so trying to physically handle him does not work. I simply pick up my phone, locate the Alexa app (I love you, Alexa) and click OFF for that plug. I am so pleased with myself, you would think I just shut down the entire city’s power grid. Wish I could see his face when it all goes black. I did win this battle, but he will no doubt win the next one.
*We would love to hear your ‘smarter than their own good’ stories. Comment below or email me if you would rather be private. email@example.com