Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Being Ian's Dad

I guess one not-especially-satisfying partial-definition of parenthood might be: The state of being in a condition of perpetual worry or anxiety. If anyone ever accuses you of being an egotist, one pert-near surefire cure would be to have a kid, because you'll quickly find that there will be someone in your life about whom you care even more than you do for yourself1.

Last year, when Ian was in fourth grade, he was not doing that well academically. (I blogged about this a little not too long ago.) He'd already been diagnosed as borderline-ADHD, which I'm not sure is quite right, but the meds did help some, though not all that much; and they tend to take his appetite away and he's already a pretty slight kid. We don't give the meds to him on the weekend and we try to get him to eat as much as possible during that window of opportunity.

We took him to another doctor who diagnosed him as having an auditory processing disorder.2 I think this second diagnosis pretty much nails what Ian's issue is.

Ian gets interested in surfing the 'net in spurts, and recently he's been in one of his Internet Surfing phases. I have a separate profile set up for him on the Macintosh, of course, so that he can't get to any place other than the ones I have approved. Whenever I come down here after him and log on to my profile, I find the sound on the Macintosh has either been turned off, if he wasn't looking at YouTube videos; or, if he was, it's on 1, the lowest sound level. He doesn't do this because the sound can be heard upstairs; i.e., it's not because the noise level would disturb me or Teh 'Bride in the living room. This is the sound level he chooses for his own comfort.

Think about that: An eleven-year-old kid who opts for the lowest sound level, even when he's watching videos.

For some reason this is kinda heart-wrenching to me — even though I know he doesn't ever give it a second thought — because it kinda brings home to me the role of sound in his world, what it means to him, what it does to him.

A lot of what he does affects me more than I guess it should, by any objective standard, but I am far from objective about him. One time I came down here after he'd been surfing the Internet and he hadn't logged out of his profile and had left up the last thing he was looking at, which was this Junior Catcher's Gear Pack. I know he didn't do this on purpose — it wasn't a case of: Hint, hint, Dad, but I'd really like this for Christmas —  because when it comes to things he wants, he's ... um ... let's just say "not that subtle". (He's more: "Can I get this? ... WHYYYYYYY NAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHTTTT!1!") I very nearly just bought it for him because even though I'm well into my geezerdom now I can still remember longing for things that I knew I probably couldn't have or couldn't afford; and I would have bought it for him, except ... I don't want him to be a catcher. (I keep telling him he's not the right build for it and catchers get hit by the ball a lot and it hurts. Plus he's a really good second baseman.)

If he's still insistent on being a catcher by the time Spring Baseball starts, though, I'll probably get that gear for him, anyway.

All Summer I was dreading his starting fifth grade because fourth had been such a trial for him. And we signed him up for Fall Baseball because he really started liking baseball this year and there are not enough kids in our neighborhood for him just to have a pick-up game and so the only time he got to play was with me in the field out back. I thought Fall Ball might be a mistake because he had a hard enough time getting his homework started, much less finished, at aftercare because the noise distracted him and he couldn't concentrate and I figured the last thing he needed was another distraction that would eat up hours of potential study time. But we told him he'd have to make a real effort if he wanted to play ball because there wouldn't be any time to waste.

I wasn't expecting much, though.

But he surprised us all by almost always getting his homework done at aftercare and doing a good job of it. This represented an extraordinary effort on his part, of the type that I myself hadn't exerted until I was in twelfth grade. And on his first report card about a month ago he got virtually all A's. He has great teachers (and a reading tutor), which is part of the reason, but most of it is ... him. When Teh 'Bride went to the Parent-Teachers conference, his teachers were amazed to hear that he'd had such a hard time the previous year; they consider him an A student. And his efforts haven't flagged just because Fall Ball is over. He's still getting A's and doing the lion's share of his homework at aftercare.

As a parent, though, I have of course moved on to other things about him to worry about.

But I also try to remember to tell him how proud I am of him.

Ian is Our Ambassador to the rest of the neighborhood and that's how he ended up with his own mini Christmas Tree. One of the neighbors whose name neither I nor Teh 'Bride even knows was cutting one of his shrubs and Ian asked for the top and the guy gave it to him. It became his mini Xmas tree because we got our real one (see below) late this year. But, of course, a few days before he decided to make it his tree, I saw him with it outside using it as a bat as one of his friends pitched a snowball to him. It's in pretty good shape still, so I guess he never really connected. That present there is for me. Ian kept trying to get me to open it before Christmas, but I refused. We compromised. I'll open it Christmas Eve.
Ian's Tree is now up in his room so we could make room for our actual tree, which we just got this past Saturday. Last night when I was working late at the library, Ian and Teh 'Bride put lights on it (don't cry for me: I don't do decorations) but I haven't gotten a picture of that yet. This is possibly the straightest tree we've ever had. O sure ... NOW ... When DADT's finally been repealed!
1 If this lessening of ego-centrism doesn't happen to your post-kid self, then you're a sociopath and probably shouldn't have had a kid in the first place. So if you try this experiment, it is essential that you not mistake your sociopathy for mere egotism. One way to tell the difference:

Let's say someone at work is promoted ahead of you. If you think: "I'm waaaaaay better than that guy; he's not fit to lick my n*ts@ck! My bosses are idiots!" <-- Congratulations! You're an egotist. Have a child! If on the other hand you think: "I'm waaaaaay better than that guy; he's not fit to lick my n*ts@ck! My bosses are idiots! And that is why I killed them all and buried their bodies in a shallow grave and may or may not've eaten their livers with fava beans and a nice Chianti." <--- Do NOT, repeat NOT, have kids because you're a sociopath.

Plus? You're a bit of a pussy because real men drink beer, not wine.

2 I explained what this meant in that previous post but rather than send you there or describe this issue in another way, I'll just save us all the trouble and quote myself here:
Ian, last year, was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. Which means he has a hard time understanding spoken instructions, especially if they're relatively complex. It also means that what you and I hear as background noise, he hears as sound that is on an even footing with foreground noise; i.e., the kid whispering to another kid in class behind him is of equal import to him as the teacher up in front of the class giving instructions on how to do long division. It's not a mere distraction; it would be equally valid to say the teacher was the distraction, because Ian doesn't choose which sounds to key on.

And so when he would say to me [when we did his homework together], as I got angry with him, "I am listening. I just don't get you," he was not being lazy or stubborn or lying. He really just didn't understand.


  1. My mom still worries about me constantly and I'm almost 37 years old. She had a reprieve for a few years while I was married because there was someone else to worry about me, but now that I'm divorced, she's back to worrying.

    Just be prepared to worry about Ian for the rest of your life.

  2. ADHD, auditory processing disorder... ah, tis the season for diagnosing.

    I'm up to 7 different neurological diagnoses. I'm waiting for them to just give my condition its own name... "creepy geezer syndrome" has a nice ring.

  3. There are studies done about the marks kids get lining up with the expectations of the teachers. That is, if the teacher(s) think a kid is stupid they get poor grades, and the opposite. And sometimes, the kid just needs a bit of incentive to do better academically. But trying to figure out that incentive, how much, how often, is a much more difficult task than what most teachers are up to. Most parents too, come to think of it.

  4. I agree with SteveQ although he didn't say it. Take the meds away from the kid. I think the auditory processing disorder sounds much more realistic and no reason to drug up the kid for an attention deficit disorder.

    Plus, he might need some HGH to prepare for his baseball career and that stuff is pricey...

  5. Apropos of nothing

    Just how creepy would it be for me to say this? "Call me Santa. My bag is full and I'm just aching to deliver my package to where it'll cause squeals of delight." I'm thinking that's an all-time creepiness standard.

  6. I'm thinking of getting my son evaluated for his auditory processing. It was either that or military school.