My kids recently watched the movie “Artificial Intelligence.” with the little kid from “I see dead people” in it as the robot. I watched the first part of the story with them (it’s a long movie!) where the robot is “programmed” aka attached to the mom and then set loose in the woods when the “real” son wakes up from whatever disease he has. Although I enjoyed the movie the first time around, it was pre-RAD life. Quite a few things disturbed me this time around, though, and seemed to echo some things in our lives as RAD families.
The robot child was needy, helpless, constantly wanting attention and love. He was a never-ending hole of “give me love”. He acted younger than his supposed age, even asking her to dress him when he was well beyond the age when a mother would dress her child. That whole part of it made me shudder.
Either they cast the role with a child way too old, or they cut out scenes that would have made this clearer, but it seemed the robot child didn’t learn or didn’t know anything. In the pool scene where the biological child pushes the robot into the pool out of meanness, the robot being terrified of water, the robot grabs onto the human child and nearly drowns him. What 8 or 9 year old child wouldn’t realize the danger of standing on the edge of the pool and not move themselves away from the danger zone? The robot acts more like a 3 or 4 year old, than an 8 – 10 year old. And if the parents realize he has the mentality of a small child, why are they leaving him unsupervised near a pool?
Human child has some serious emotional problems in this movie as well, setting off the baby-ish robot into situations where it gets him in trouble and eventually gets the mother to decide to send him back – aka have him destroyed, and the robot run away to save himself.
The mother and the brother never do treat the robot boy nicely or even like he’s a real person. Of course he’s not, but he thinks he is, that’s the design of the robot, and that’s what truly creates all the chaos. All the robot wants is love and that is the one thing he is denied.
Sooooo why am I talking about this old movie that is probably older than my kids? I see my RAD as the robot in a lot of ways. Acts helpless in ways he shouldn’t be, acts younger than his age, and like the robot should be damn capable of dressing himself at 10! The constant need for attention, “Love”, the level of neediness, the never-ending level of need, the babyish behavior, being easily set off by siblings in situations most kids could walk away from.
But then there’s the other side of the coin, the one that makes me feel guilty and question myself, because in the movie, it seems that if the robot child got love then the behavior wouldn’t have been serious and scary, and its’ clear from the beginning the mother doesn’t want the robot-child, nor does she in any way correct the bio child into treating the robot-child like a real person. She treats him as a thing. So…. am I doing that? Treating my child as a thing, because of his never – ending black hole of neediness, the robotic act of professing and showing love, which is all for show and not real emotion, the babyishness when the child is fully capable of certain things? Is the babyish acting around the little bit older sibling and the sibling’s reaction leading to this child feeling unloved? Are we not really providing this child with the love he needs?
In my mind I know the answer to this question, but in my heart, I wonder if we’re doing things the right way. And yes, of course we screw up, make mistakes, have bad days. No doubt. Where my mind goes down the list of the resources we have for this child, the sacrifices we make, the way our family revolves around this one child, I know we are doing and have done everything we can and continue to do so. But in my heart, of course, fear sets in, is it my fault? Am I not doing enough? Am I not loving him enough? On those bad days when I don’t like him am I breaking him? Am I making it so he can never heal?
I think we all feel that way. Truth is, we’re all human. We all make mistakes. And although kids aren’t resilient in the sense that they can come through every trauma without it impacting them, they are resilient enough to handle our bad days. Even if our bad days are nearly half of the time, our kids are resilient enough to handle them as long as we are doing good more than half of the time. My son’s therapist says that and I’m clinging to that with everything I got on those bad days, because that’s all I can do. My bad days are not breaking him or preventing him from healing if I’m short tempered, say the wrong thing, forget the proper therapeutic parenting thing to do, send him to his room instead of “time in”, don’t want endless “not real” hugs, or snap at the endless nonsense questions. To add to our own stress by fearing that our bad days are permanent, making things even worse, or damaging this child forever, are only taking away from our own mental health, security, and safety. We are human. We cannot be programmed to be perfect.
Just hang in there.