How My Son Put the Spoon Theory Into Generation Z Terms


Those of us with chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, lupus, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Lyme disease, mental illness and many more, often have the terrible and heart-wrenching task of explaining to our children what it all means. If our children are young, this mission can be even more daunting. Many of us are well-versed on the beautiful story of the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino, which has helped many people understand that the more chores, outings, stressful events we have in our day, the less energy, and coping skills we have left to handle what may come our way. However, the newer generations with their “I-need-fast-answers-that-apply-to-me” way of thinking may not accept or “get” the spoon theory.

The new and modified spoon theory…

I have four children in the Gen Z category and I recently discovered that the Spoon Theory was not sinking in to my children’s heads. What do they care about spoons? I stumbled around to find a way to help them understand what it is like to have a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, on top of my 20-year-old diagnosis of fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. The helpless feeling I had growing spilled over when I went to talk to my youngest, my 16-year-old son, who has autism, fibromyalgia and a plethora of other disabilities. I had no idea how to help him to understand the Spoon Theory and his first response was, “Mom, why the hell are you talking about spoons?”

The helpless feeling I had growing…

Just when I thought all hope was lost, my brilliantly mature, almost 18-year-old son came to my rescue and said, “So, imagine you are playing Minecraft in survival mode, hardcore version. You have limited possessions and the enemies are strong. To built anything and continue is difficult as you don’t have all the things you need. Each time an enemy gets you, your health bar drops. With chronic pain disorders, the enemies are chores, problems, arguments, stress, weather, outings, new symptoms, injuries and people that don’t believe or care that you’re sick. Each one of those things hurts your health bar and makes you weaker, which makes it harder to fight off enemies and keep building. You also have a food bar that goes down over the day, even if you don’t get attacked. You have to keep adding to it so it doesn’t make your health bar go down faster. With chronic pain, you have to keep adding help from others, happy moments, successes, healthy food, water, vitamins, medications and rest to your food bar – or it will lower your health bar faster.”

…imagine you are playing Minecraft in survival mode, hardcore version.

“People, like you and mom that have chronic pain and other terrible symptoms, are living in Minecraft survival mode with bad enemies and limited resources. Getting through each day is difficult. Most days your food bar is empty and your health bar is almost empty at the end of each day. Sometimes you start the day with both bars at half. Without help and rest, your bars go down too fast to build anything.”

My boys understand now and I think they added two more hearts to my health bar today!

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Photo courtesy of Minecraft Facebook page


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