Thursday, September 10, 2009

Two children, two worlds

P.S. to last post: Austin got his learner's permit about a week later! By the way, I should have explained that teenagers speak a language that is mostly incomprehensible to adults, particularly parents. You may not have been around a teenager recently and so may have forgotten that handy fact. That explains why I had trouble understanding Austin on the phone, and why I didn't try harder to get him to clarify. That is an exercise in futility. Mumble-grum-mum-mm-bub-Mom! is the usual reply, growled in a deep voice.

A little about my other son, Andrew. What an interesting child. Andrew is in the unfortunate position, I believe, of living in a giant shadow cast by his over-achieving big brother, Austin, who seems to excel at everything he does. Andrew idolizes Austin, which doesn't help, because he wants to do everything that Austin does. He hasn't found his own niche, yet.

Andrew just crossed the threshold to teenagerdom, too, but for long before that, he has lived in a world of his own creation. (Now who does that sound like?) He can be doing what looks like absolute "nothing" to the untrained eye, but lots is going on inside his head. Unfortunately, it's mostly incomprehensible and none of it seems to be of a practical nature. He's our little part-Einstein and part-Buddha, except perhaps without the genius/enlightened aspects. He is, however, inscrutible. I keep calling him "little" by habit although he's quickly approaching eye-to-eye level with me.

Andrew has been diagnosed with ADD, not that it really helps. It gives him this handy crutch, but I keep trying to tell him he still will have to learn to function in the real world, someday.

The mundane realities of daily life bore him, those things that Earthbound humans must contend with ... getting up and dressed, feeding the pets, eating breakfast, going to bed, or brushing his teeth, ever. Taking a shower is an opportunity for countless science experiments, or else just feeling the lovely warm water rush over his body. Actually, I have no idea what in God's name he does in there. We usually start noticing billowing steam clouds emanating from the back bathroom, and realize that Andrew must be still in the shower.

Then we begin shouting, "Get out now!" Me, Dwaine, Austin -- separately, or in unison. This is a Smith family ritual that is repeated whenever Andrew's in the bathroom, too. It's become a time-honored tradition. Somehow, we idealistically keep on believing that this time, it finally will work. We are starry-eyed in that belief. And I tremble to think what Andrew would do, or NOT do, if he didn't hear "Get out now!!" That is his cue to get started. Without it, days could pass.

One moment, please. It dawned on me that I've been hearing water running for quite some time now, and I recall telling Andrew it was time to take a shower an hour or so back. (He always says something like, "Is it time? Do I have to?")

We are Andrew's facilitators, though we are finally catching on to that fact and withdrawing from that role a little bit. We have been his timekeepers for a long, long time, since the whole concept of time seemed either totally beneath him or beyond his grasp. (I'm really not sure which.)

Andrew, it's time to get up! Time to eat! Time to feed the pets! And on, and on. Even when I would tell him it was "time to" over the summer, he would often go till midafternoon without eating, finishing chores, or getting dressed, on a regular basis. He just forgot. These things are not important aspects of his life.

Andrew is a master at placing blame elsewhere. He recently told me that he could never become a (something) when he grew up, because I wouldn't let him! Sorry, we both promptly forgot what exact profession it was. I tried explaining the whole concept of that growing-up business and how his life would be fully, completely HIS responsibility at that point. That didn't set too well with him. He is milking this youngest-child, baby of the family thing for all it's worth.

He recently said he didn't try out for football because I did not let Austin play football. I asked if he ever considered that things might have changed, and maybe he should have checked with me and Dad before making an assumption? No, he never considered that. Frankly, I would love for him to be excited about something besides playing with the dog.

I have learned to outsmart Andrew by physically not being present when he has certain obligations to meet. Can't blame Mom if she wasn't there! For example, Austin goes in for tennis before school. No one is home after we leave, and Andrew has to get himself up, dressed, and out to the bus. He's done amazingly well, considering he spends about 25 minutes lying in bed and about 10 rushing around the house getting ready. (I have seen him in action.)

I am submitting my pink slip. This is it, really. I resign as Andrew's manager, effective immediately. He will have to manage his own life. He and I have written a contract -- no, tell the truth, Mom! I wrote it out for him. He signed it. It is everything he is responsible for on a daily basis. Now, I didn't put all the obvious things like get dressed (shirt, underwear, shorts, socks, shoes) because that would have been information overload. I don't know if I even listed taking a shower, which I still prompt him to do every evening. But eating breakfast, homework, chores (spelled out), bedtime, brushing teeth, doing what Mom & Dad say, promptly -- they're all there. And amazingly, he has discovered granola bars, healthy ones even ("Mom's" granola bars, Kashi), and has been eating one faithfully every morning before running off to catch the bus! Go, Andrew!

Andrew missed his bedtime by 15-30 minutes for the first couple of weeks, because, ya know, it involves that really insignificant concept of TIME. But, he finally got it last night, after I started making his bedtime earlier as a consequence. He was in bed on the dot at 9:45, which was last night's absolute deadline. There is hope!

I love Andrew so, so much. He's the sweetest, most loving person. He can be a little devil, too, but then he smiles that dimply smile and melts your heart. I hope this entry does him justice!

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