When it came time to teach my son to drive, he did not believe he was ready. And we waited until he was 17 to begin training, as it was. He managed to pass his test on the second try but was not eager to drive on his own once he won his license. So I nudged him forward. I asked him to please go to the local grocery store for me, five miles away, on quiet back roads, roads he has traveled hundreds of times all seventeen years of his life.
“Why can’t you go?” he sassed, “What are you doing that is so important?”
Bryce never talks to me in this tone of voice; he must be freaked.
So I consent to go along. But only lying down in the back seat of the car and I would not be saying anything. It would be as if I were not there, purely for moral support.
As he is driving through town, he begins to speak out loud, as if he were completely alone.
“Gee, I can’t remember where I turn off the main road to head down to the grocery store. Is it this street? I’m not sure. If Mom were along, she could advise me. How about this street? I’m not sure if that is the one either. I’m gonna go right on by. But now I’m heading out of town. I must have missed it completely. If Mom were here she could tell me.”
And I sprang up from the back seat like a jack-in-the-box and yelled, “You are unbelievable! How could you be unconscious all your life? Turn around!”
When he was awarded a slot in a private art camp in South Dakota, he was forced to fly alone when he was seventeen and he was very nervous. Actually, he was even nervous about attending, for he had read the book “Holes-” about a camp for bad boys, about six times and had seen the accompanying movie too many times, that he was worried it would become a reality for him. Not that he believed he was bad, but one of the camp rules was that he could not call me on the telephone for the duration of the three weeks that he was there, and only communicate via written letters through the postal service. Something very scary could happen and it would be a long time until I learned about it.
His fears of traveling were not completely ill-founded for he accidently threw away his boarding pass at the airport Mc Donald’s and had to frantically riffle through the covered trash can to retrieve it before racing back to the gate.
When he attended college, he was nervous about negotiating the train home by himself but we coached him through it. On one of his maiden voyages, he experienced a near-crisis. To travel back and forth from Temple University in Philadelphia to home, he used to toss all his belongings- school books, art supplies (loose exact-o knives, individual pastels), dirty wash, into a large Mylar shopping bag. His wallet and cell phone also got tossed in (not a good choice).
He disembarked at the wrong station and realized it in mid stride. His bag was still on the train, he was off, on the ground outside, and the long fabric handles were sandwiched inbetween on closed train doors. What should he do? If he lets go- all his most important belongings will be lost. The train was about to pull out when the porter realized his dilemma and reopened the doors.
Both kids have a tad of their father’s insecurity issues in them, but home schooling has been very beneficial at counteracting this tendency and helping them to overcome it. Pushing them a bit helps too. Since we did not home school in the private secure confides of our home (as some families do who are frightened by society) but out in the big world. It forced them to put themselves out there and learn to deal with it.
My son can scare me. He is brilliant but he is focused, and not necessarily on the reality at hand all the time. He is busy dreaming up images to draw or composing rhyming lyrics in his mind. His creativity is off the charts and his cognitive presence is sometimes gone.
I had similar challenges as a young person (although I was not nearly so bright and talented as Bryce). I lost so many things, my glasses constantly. I was forced by my parents to walk block after block of our suburban neighborhood through streets overflowing with brown downed leaves, searching for my brown glasses. Impossible.
My mother did not get me. She misinterpreted my behavior and told me that I was stupid. Luckily, for my bright and clear mind, I did not buy this. I knew I had a handicap but I was definitely not stupid. She admitted years later, that she did not know how to raise me.
Bryce’s mother gets him. And although I might sometimes react as though I am exasperated, I am still laughing at the comic of it all, and my heart does go out to him. I can empathize with his frustration of spending so much of his time looking for lost things. He inherited that trait from me, but I sometimes fear he has taken it to a new level.
I did not want to TEACH my child that he was stupid. I did not want to teach my child anything negative about himself. Even though we need to look at this challenging characteristic and try to work with it, for no other reason than to make life a little easier for him and avoid a crisis in the future. I did know I could not save him. Softening his fall was my aim.
I liked the quote, “Don’t try so hard to be a perfect boy. Do the best you can without too much anxiety or strain.”
I would rather Bryce use his energy and brain to create beauty in the world. That is more important- to give the world something positive that it did not know it was missing. This takes huge creative energy. His mother’s acceptance of this trait and his acceptance of his self is a gift. His very thorough, tidy and efficient father, on the other hand, would neither ever criticize his wife or his son on their shortcomings. Although he does believe if we tried harder, we could live a more orderly life, be more productive with our time, and not spend so much of it searching for lost things. At 57, I’ve come to accept it about myself. At 21, Bryce has too.
When your parent gets you, accepts you, supports you, and says, “It’s alright. We can learn to work on this,” this is teaching our children a very positive message about themselves. Bryce truly believes he is good and bright and certainly worthwhile, (most definitely not stupid!) despite a handicap.