Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Perks of Being Obsessed

photo by Indigo Goat

"It's not a hobby, it's an obsession."

Obsession: ob·ses·sion Pronunciation: äb-'se-sh&n, &b-Function: noun1 : a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; broadly : compelling motivation 2 : something that causes an obsession (from the Merriam Webster dictionary)

Jake has always had obsessions. Space, the human body, dinosaurs, engines, woodworking, rocks, chemistry, outdoor survival, you name it. In fact, one of my first posts to this blog was about his fascination with weaponry and how it disturbed people that we knew. They thought it was abnormal and weird for a kid to be so single minded about a subject, and there was talk that this trait might even signal that Jake was on the autism spectrum.

"How do you tell the difference between an autistic-like obsession and a gifted-type one?" I've been asked this question many times when I countered that Jake is not, in any way, remotely on the autism spectrum.

I'm no expert, so it's hard for me to offer any explanation other then to describe what I do know best; my child. The boy is like a sponge; he completely immerses himself in his chosen topic and absorbs as much as he feels he wants to know. This isn't a kid that is interested in just knowing that salmon are in the river. He wants to know the different species, their life cycles, what they eat, where they poop, how they are caught and then canned, the political aspects of fish farms, how fish hatcheries work....and then, he wants to eat them. Then he'd go onto sushi, maybe into Japan.....

....get the picture? My brain hurts just thinking about it. He sees every connection, every relation to other topics, and he wants to explore every single one of them, in infinite detail.

He quizzes knowledgeable adults, signs out stacks of library books, researches online, and when we let him he conducts his own experiments. He chatters non-stop about every bit of new information; in the car, in the kitchen, while you're watching tv, while I blog, at school, even while he sleeps. It is the most absolute, undeniable, relentless pursuit of knowledge I have ever seen in my life. We don't even try to keep up anymore, because I've come to the conclusion that I simply can't.

May brings nice weather, school field trips, obsessions. One driving interest branches off into many smaller ones, and they all occur in tandem. Some die off quickly, some remain for months, some are resurrected from years past. Currently the obsessions in our house include:

-gardening (which branches off into herbs, herbal medicine, chemistry, identifying wild plants, and cooking)
-cooking (which branches off into studies of different countries and international cuisine, herbs, and chemistry)
-castles (which branches off into medieval history, especially the cooking and weapons of the times)
-herbal medicine (he loves to make herbal teas and stuff for the bath)

Saturdays are 'discovery days', where Jake tends to his plants, tries new recipes, conducts chemistry experiments, and builds things. Currently I have reaped the benefits of these obsessions by having some delicious herbal teas that he has created, soaked in some lovely oatmeal baths he's made, and enjoyed tasty dinners every Saturday.

I'm beginning to think that information overload has some serious benefits.

Think I could get him interested in cleaning? I tried asking him this a minute ago as he was showing me a new tea he created with mint, dried orange peel, fennel and caraway. He rolled his eyes like most pre-teens and smiled slyly.

"You're kidding, right? I don't think so."

Oh well, at least I tried.

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