Thursday, January 6, 2011

On being addicted to obsessions

Ahab was obsessed with Moby Dick. Van Gogh was said to have an obsession with sunflowers, among other things. And Hamlet? Well, he was obsessed with death and exacting revenge in the aftermath of his father's murder.

See? Everyone gets a little crazy about something.

I try to remember that as my kids go through their "obsessive" phases. When my oldest son was little, it was Mary Poppins. Yes, hard to believe, but this shaggy-haired, troubled teen metalhead once spun around the family room singing "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!!!" at the top of his lungs. Over and over. Day after day.

From there, it was Lion King. Then Skinamarink. Then Elmo. And just so you don't think I had my kid planted in front of the TV day in and day out, he also became obsessed with outdoor things: shaking trees. Yes. Shaking trees. I think his grandpa taught him that - one of the many things grandparents think are "funny" to teach little kids, then they return home and the parent is faced with their poor kid shaking a tree in the middle of the neighborhood while other more perfect mothers look out the windows holding their perfect kids and shaking their heads.

At first, when my son would exhibit anything resembling any kind of obsessive behavior, I would freak out. A victim of some extremely irritating obsessive compulsive tendencies myself, I would immediately think that at any moment he would begin washing his hands 147 times and checking every doorknob in the house. But as he moved from one to the other, I began to realize that he was just trying things on for size, wearing them around for awhile, then discarding them and moving on to the next best thing.

So when he started lining up his Hot Wheels cars according to color, I didn't panic. And when he began spending hours in his room constructing multi-level, multi-room condominiums out of Legos, I assumed he was an aspiring architect. Now, when he systematically names off every heavy metal riff like it's a game of Name That Tune, I sigh and hope it's "just a phase". And I wonder what the next one will be.

My younger son is no different, although he exhibited his obsessions a little later in life. As a toddler, he went with the flow, probably because we were too busy managing his older brother's obsessions at the time. There was a brief fling with Finding Nemo, but for the most part his fanaticals have been limited to Legos and Hot Wheels (finding the elusive 2010 Treasure Hunts, specifically.) But now, it's a back flip. Yep. It's what he wants to do - and he spends literally hours flipping and twisting and reading books and watching videos and doing whatever else it takes to master it. After he accomplishes that feat, who knows?

My obsessions were never quite as constructive. There was the cleaning obsession - that was before children, of course - but considering I lived alone it didn't really benefit anyone but me. I never had any sort of shoe, clothing or jewelry obsession. For awhile I was addicted to scrapbooking, but once Son #2 was born, I gave up and hoped he'd be OK with just a few random photographs slapped in a School Days notebook. I suppose I'm obsessed with exercise to a point, but it seems to be negated by my obsession with carbohydrates. I need to work on that.

My point is, everyone has their "obsession", their "thing". Usually it's temporary - something I "used to be into". But it serves us well, and lets us experience the different aspects that make our lives rich and full.

What are your obsessions (that you're willing to admit)?

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