May 28, 2008 by Marj Hatzell

I’m about to use a really awful metaphor for my life, I’m giving you fair warning.

The past month has been a blur.  Between last-minute-end-of-year school functions, family occurrences and planning our trip to Utah this summer, we’ve been over-booked. We’ve had several medical issues to deal with, a meeting with Bug Boy’s school because they are discontinuing his multi-age classroom (don’t ask) and summer and therapy to plan.  Ive had multiple family gatherings, several appointments with the boys and more social thingies to go to than I can count.  The climax of these events (heh, heh, I said climax) has to be The Titanic Project.

Each year, Bug Boy’s school picks a theme for the entire year.  They also pick an Asian Country to study. Last year was the renaissance and China.  This year was India (complete with REAL Mehndi art and Bug Boy tried INDIAN FOOD!) and an Ocean theme.  All of the trips were Ocean-theme-related and they’ve spent months reading stories and doing projects related to this theme.  A few weeks back Bug Boy’s teacher read a story about the Titanic.  Life hasn’t been the same since.

See, sometimes kids with Autism get a wee bit obsessed with excited about certain topics.  They tend to find something that interests them and forge ahead, full speed. Kinda like a ship about to hit an iceberg, except without the sinking part.  They just kinda float a little after the crash and then pick themselves off and forge ahead again.  With Bug Boy, the prevailing themes are cars, more cars and electronics.  Or, more accurately, video games.  Now, video games with cars in them? Does life get any better than that?  Not Bug Boy’s!  It becomes, shall we say, a tad unhealthy.  This obsession, I mean.  They can’t stop thinking about it. They have to have it.  It’s all they think about.  Every time they sleep, eat or breathe, something reminds them of it.


A few weeks ago, the teachers handed out the year-end project. This project was the summarize everything they’ve learned this year related to the ocean and all of the topics they covered. They could pick an animal we saw at the aquarium, choose to talk about the eco-system, study one of the ships we visited or pick any topic related to the unit.  They could pick three topics and the teachers would try to accommodate everyone’s choice, as there are nine classrooms participating and they were hoping not to have too many repeats.  Bug Boy’s three choices were:  1) The Titanic Sinks 2) People on the Titanic and 3) Whale Sharks.

Yup.  He got his first choice.

And for the past few weeks?  We’ve read every book in our library system, watched hours of Titanic documentaries, googled it non-stop to find websites and pictures and have talked about and written abou it without a break.  Each and every night we had to write facts and organize his project (because it takes him nearly and hour to write THREE SENTENCES, he’s so easily distracted and cannot stay still long enough to form letters, not to mention the fact that he has a massive fine-motor delay).  Each and every night we read page after page about every inch of the Titanic. I know more about sinking ships and dead people that I care to know.  We’ve even seen the underwater exploration documentary when they thought they were gonna bring up pounds of gold and ended up with some paperwork.  Enthralling stuff.

Bug Boy has learned quite a bit through this project. Although he is obsessed with it at the moment, he is handling the information well. He can tell you everything you want to know about the Titanic.  The day it sank, how many people lived or died, where it was sailing to, who was in the crow’s nest, etc, etc. He can also tell you little-known facts (or more accurate, stuff most people don’t care about) such as what kind of food or animals or dishes or vehicles were on there.  Or what food they served in first class and third class dining rooms.

Now, I was worried that the subject matter was a little heavy for a seven-year-old boy. Let’s face it, Bug Boy is immature for his age. He has the emotions and social skills of a four-year-old boy with the brain of a nine-year-old.  I was worried that he’d either obsess over the death-and-disaster part of it or get hung up on bodies in the water.  And he did become obsessed.  He was upset about certain aspects.  But not about dead people.

He was worried about the potatoes.

It seems that there was a large cargo of food and supplies on board the ship.  Included in that stash was about 5,000 pounds of potatoes (there were Irish folks on board, after all).  Along with the potatoes went gold, money and artwork.  GONE.  To the bottom of the ocean. And this does not sit well with Bug Boy. I mean, ALL OF THOSE POTATOES!  ALL OF THAT MONEY!  WHAT ABOUT THE 50,000 TOWELS ON BOARD?  WHAT HAPPENED TO THEIR DINNER?

Yeah. The important stuff.

And the project? We have a clay model of the titanic hitting an iceberg, complete with ice floe and a white-star flag and the crows nest, and pictures and a map and even a boarding pass. Oh, and we made it with egg cartons and paper towel tubes.  Take that, MacGuyver.  And?  Menus from the last day of the Titanic.  And a copy of the headlines from the day it sank.  Tonight is the presentation “Museum Night” when all of the students display and talk about their project.  Bug Boy ain’t even nervous. DG is.  I just want him to be able to speak and remember everything, and he does have difficulty processing and saying things even though he remembers it.

So how does this relate to my life?  Let’s review:

  • Sometimes I feel like my life is a ship sinking in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic with no hope of survival.
  • If someone warns me about impending doom (aka icebergs) I’m sure as heck gonna pay attention for now on.
  • We should FILL THE LIFEBOATS before setting them in the water, people.  A lack of being prepared (or having enough lifeboats) causes catastrophe of epic proportions.
  • If someone says something ain’t gonna happen, no-way-no-how, that’s just a self fulfilling prophesy (don’t ever call something unsinkable)
  • All the money in the world and people died anyways. Just goes to show you that it ain’t about riches.
  • The band will always play on.  BAND GEEKS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!
  • Sometimes I get so hung up on the big details that I forget about small potatoes.

The moral of the story is…take a red-eye instead.


  1. I know this might sound kooky, but do you know why he was so interested in the Titantic? Why he had his eye on that compared to the myriad of things he could be interested in?

    Life is like a sinking ship…

    I can relate to that.

    My heart does not go on though.

    It will wait. Every birthday wish, ever falling star — it will wait. It has to because not everyone can go on.

  2. RuthWells says:

    Hoo boy. G is currently obsessed with natural disasters and the Bermuda Triangle. I had to pull out a map to prove to him that our September flight to Paris will not go *through* the Bermuda Triangle — he was quite concerned.

  3. HG says:

    I’m quite glad my kids’ obsession have been minor 🙂

  4. Maybe his worrying about the potatoes is one way of telling you how much he loves you.

  5. R says:

    The potatoes all sank?!!! Oh, the humanity!!! NOW we know why he became so obsessed with the Titanic. He is his mother’s son.

  6. While the Boy doesn’t have the same issues as Bug Boy, he has his own obsessions. His is basically Doctor Who and anything related to Doctor Who. He draws TARDISes (I’m not sure of the plural of TARDIS) over and over. He told me that the “chocolate Olivia” in his kindergarten class (she was in preschool with him where there were two Olivias – the chocolate one and the “lellow” one) is beautiful, like Martha (on Doctor Who!). He was Doctor Who for Halloween.

    Okay, that might have been Mom and Dad’s idea, but you get my point. Honestly, I get to the point where when I hear the theme song on TV during the day I want to scream, and I love Doctor Who, too!

  7. Jacki says:

    Wow, I am impressed! That is quite a project for a 7 year old. Way to go!

  8. […] that one of Bug Boy’s “Things” (sounds nicer than “OBSESSION”) is the Titanic. He is all about disasters, man-made and natural. Hurricanes? You have no idea how excited this kid […]

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