Friday, February 25, 2011

Chaaarge! Retreat!

Do you remember watching Looney Tunes? You know, when good cartoons were a Saturday morning tradition? My boys have recently decided their favorite is the “Bunker Hill Bunny” episode with Bugs Bunny and (Yosemite) Sam von Schmamm trying to storm each other’s fort.
Bugs defends his wooden fort with a single cannon and Sam defends his formidable stone fort with multiple cannons. As always, Bugs calmly outwits the irritable Sam. A highlight of the episode is when Sam comes out with a musket bayonet and charges Bugs in the wooden fort. Bugs charges back with his musket bayonet and they end up switching sides and changing their respective flags from “We” to “They.” It is this portion of the episode that has enamored my boys, keeping them entertained for hours as they recreate it in their play on a regular basis.  
Like many children on the spectrum, they both have a talent for absorbing things they hear from their favorite shows, cartoons, songs, and games. I consider this to be a verbal form of photographic memory. Many people call it scripting, but at our house we call it dialoging. Dialoging has become a preferred form of stimming for both of my boys, and is a way for them to perseverate on something they really like.
In times past, Monkey was the only one who did this. Now that Prince Charming has also honed the skill and the boys are finally learning how to play together successfully, they’ve found it enjoyable to dialog in tandem. They derive intense satisfaction from repeating particular scripts over and over. At times they have an uncontrollable need to get all the words out from their current favorite dialoging subject, and it’s very difficult to get them to stop in the middle of this type of activity. I discourage them from dialoging out in public, but I usually let them do it freely when we’re home. I believe that if they have the overwhelming urge to stim, home should always be a safe place to do so. If I simply can’t listen to it anymore, I have them dialog in their rooms with the door shut.  
As I mentioned, their current focus is on recreating the Bunker Hill Bunny episode. Over and over. And over. They each choose a part to play and then go through the episode, providing both dialog and action. Serving as their pretend musket bayonets, they use the plastic Star Wars light sabers that they got for Christmas.
It always starts out super cute. They have great attention to detail and it’s impressive how they work together to be accurate. They take turns playing different characters and have fun mimicking their tone of voice and mannerisms. After the 50th time in a row in the span of about an hour, it’s a smidge less cute.
Remember Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel in the movie, Ice Age? You know how he gets a twitchy eye when he’s reached the end of his proverbial rope? Yeah. I get that. Completely. By the end of the night, I can sometimes be found wildly grabbing for their light sabers and making threats about never allowing them to watch Looney Tunes ever again. Ever. It’s usually about that time that I’m wishing the martini fairy would bring me a stiff drink, and that the sleep fairy would knock my kids out into a deep slumber. But, I digress…
Invariably, the next day I am once again able to observe the Bunker Hill Bunny dialog as cute and funny, at least for the first 50 times or so. I can’t promise much after that. Anyway, their version goes something like this:
Monkey as Yosemite Sam: “Chaarge!” in a lower, guttural voice    
Prince Charming as Bugs Bunny: “Chaaarge!” in a nasally, high-pitched voice
Then, they take off running down the hall with light sabers pointed toward each other, passing each other as they reach opposite sides.
Prince Charming/Bugs: “Yoohoo, Mr. Enemy!”
Monkey/Sam: “Oooh! Chaaarge!”
Prince Charming/Bugs: “Chaaarge!”
Again, they run back and forth down the hallway.
Monkey/Sam: “Chaaarge! Retreat! I’m gonna blow you to smithereenies!”
They continue to run these laps back and forth down the hall with their light sabers in tow, speaking in their low and high-pitched character voices until the point that mommy thinks she might have a teeny tiny mental break. Then, it ends. That is until they try to begin the dialog again at the dinner table, or in the car, or in the bathroom. Sleep, you can’t come fast enough some days.
How has the dialoging changed over the years? Well, the first time it really became a stimming issue, it was all Caillou all the time. Then it was Bob the Builder. Then we had a huge Wow Wow Wubbzy phase. In the past year they moved on to Tom and Jerry, and Prince Charming has taken a singular liking to Thomas the Tank Engine. For the past couple of months it’s been all about Looney Tunes for the both of them. I wonder what it will be 6 months or a year from now? Only time will tell. Let’s hope I maintain my sanity long enough to find out!  


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