Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I've written many times about Lt. Trouble, my oldest son.

Same thing for my two little ones at home.

There is another.

My second son turned 22 today. He came over for pizza, cake and presents. He's got a lot going for him. He's an excellent artist, musician, and writer. He's funny, polite, and cute. The only thing he doesn't have is himself.

When he was younger, I would, on occasion, call him 'puddle.' That's because he would invariably find the lowest spot, and stay there. The only way he would move is if you displaced him.

In school, he was a straight A student. Until the seventh grade. That's because up until then, he could get A's without really putting much (or any) effort into it.

His approach to any task was always the same: he would figure out the least amount of effort it would take to complete any task (invariably underestimating it), and then almost do that much.

I sound like an awful parent. I know. I sound like someone who only harps on the negative. I know.

I was not always like this. I tried for the longest time to encourage him. I tried letting him learn the lesson on his own. I tried incentives. I tried punishments. The result was the same. The lowest possible passing grade--usually achieved only after going to summer school.

If I had to choose a single instance to best illustrate the way he (almost) lives his life, it would be from his Senior year in High School.

The bus that he rode to school stopped about a block and a half away from our house. One morning he left for the bus stop a few minutes late. I was walking our greyhound, and I was on the way back to the house when this happened. I could see him leaving the house. I also saw the bus coming from the opposite direction. I saw my son break into a trot when he saw the bus getting close to the stop.

There was a point where I saw that if my son just decided to really run, he could probably make it to the stop before the bus left. It was certainly worth a try. At that instant--the very instant I realized this--he stopped. Just gave up.

The minute that he needs to put a bit of effort into something is the minute he quits. That's been his life.

So far.

How much of his current situation is my fault? How much is his? Impossible to say. I freely admit that I made my share of mistakes. I know I have some amends to make with him. Actually, I started making them last year.

In February of 2005, he had been out of high school for more than two and a half years. Yet, he wasn't in college, and he wasn't working, other than a part-time job at a video store. In February of 2005, I told him he had until the end of March to either find a full-time job, or leave the house. At the end of March, he left. The only gift I had left to give him was his freedom. It broke my heart to watch him leave, with a backpack full of clothes, and a guitar in a case, looking like every other lost boy that was walking the world.

He didn't go far. He's been living with his aunt ever since. He's still pretty much the same kid he's always been.

But there's some changes. About a year ago, he was hours away from being kicked out of her house too. But he started paying rent, and I guess he's been doing that ever since. He told me he's quitting smoking after his current pack. I gave him some pointers.* He appreciated them. I've asked him to help me watch the kids a few times. He loves his brother and sister like crazy. After a few missteps, he's gotten reliable. The change, I think, came when I said to him "I'd like to be able to rely on you," and he said "You can."

I don't harp on things. I make a point to do stuff with him. Stuff we both like. Right now, it's mostly been just hanging around on Sundays watching football, but it's a start. Next Sunday, I'm throwing him a surprise birthday party. He thinks he's watching the kids.

And he's only 22. Maybe this is when he starts to 'get' it. We all grow at our own pace.

Maybe this year. Maybe next. Maybe never.

Whatever happens, it will be OK. He'll be OK, and I'll always love him.

Happy Birthday, Andrew.



*Smoke-free since June 1, 2005


Blogger Jessica said...

I know you have high expectations for him, and rightly so. (The Pygmalian effect is all too real.) On the other hand, be proud that he's not a high school dropout; it takes some (maybe small) amount of initiative to get a diploma.

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your son sounds like many of the young men I get to work with, by no means as dysfunctional as many of them but one who is in need of a mentor to inspire him.

What's sad is that he has an inspiring mentor in you but son's rarely see the brilliance of their fathers, I know it took me until I was in my mid-twenties.

5:55 AM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

Lots of hugs.

Is that him in the photo? If so, you are clearly incapable of fathering homely kids.

He's not done y'know. He's just getting started.

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like he's turning a corner. I'm sure just being with him without any lectures or pressure is making an impact.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow. what a heartfelt post.

and i really liked what heidi said -- he's not done yet.

really, none of us is done yet.

10:40 PM  
Blogger mal said...

congratulations on being smoke free! It is no small thing to quit *S*

You did right. Its hard, but no one ever told us being parents would be an emotional cake walk.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Pablo said...

My younger brother used to be like that. He's 21, and it seems that he's coming out of that. It is possible that he just hasn't gotten there quite yet.

I'm sure it is frustrating.

11:14 AM  

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