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Steve (Part 2)


I have a theory of child-raising: it's possible to have up to two children who will work with whatever your parental plan happens to be. This is not a guarantee, mind you; you may have one child and he/she may not work with the plan. But it's possible to get up to two lucky hits. Once you have three kids, however, it's guaranteed that at least one of them won't work with the plan. Steve, who turned 23 today, is my non-plan kid.

Steve is an amazing package of varied and sometimes contradictory qualities. He's impulsive, perceptive, sensitive. He's been known to drive me batty (okay, extremely batty), argue for sport (and I'd invariably get sucked in without realizing it) and--when he was young--ride his bike out of the driveway and into the path of oncoming traffic without ever bothering to watch where he was going. His dyslexia frustrated all of us and eventually drove us to homeschooling, probably one of the most valuable things we've ever done.

Steve has an astounding ability to focus on multiple things at once. He's incredibly observant of visual detail, something dyslexics depend on in their efforts to survive in a world based on printed symbols they can't always decipher. Steve will strike up a conversation with old people or make time to talk to a retarded person. They're just as smart as anyone else, he confided to me when he was in junior high, recounting how he'd gone over to talk to the retarded boy everyone else had been making fun of.  They just don't have a way of showing it, he added.

In the fifth grade Steve developed an interest in Shakespeare, something dear to my heart, and we watched many of the plays. But in the eighth grade, when the school authorities proclaimed he couldn't possibly have an IQ above 100 and insisted that all his classes should be in special ed, he got so frustrated that he spent a six week period running away from home. He'd take off and be gone for days with none-too-reputable friends, sleeping in avocado orchards or abandoned buildings, and only come home when he was too hungry or dirty to take it anymore. After sleeping it off and filling his belly, he'd take off again. It was scary for me, especially since this happened at what was really my lowest point, after M and I had split up and I was struggling to raise five kids, come to terms with singlehood and comprehend the new-gendered person M had become.

There were many times when I wasn't sure Steve would ever grow up. He's got intelligence, Paul would note, but no wisdom. Steve's high school years were bouts of homeschooling interspersed with stints at public school when I simply couldn't deal with him anymore. Invariably he'd end up warehoused in special ed; his teachers were always surprised at his background and knowledge, but none ever seemed to question the validity of his placement in their program. Eventually I'd take pity on him and go back to working with him... or attempting to work with him. I used to think that if he ever grew up, it would probably be when he was in his nineties, and I wouldn't be around to see it.

Somewhere along the way, though, progress has been made. He's working at a job that's perfectly suited to his night owl ways. He's learned not to quit a job before he has another one lined up. He's come to have the same kind of love for cars as M, and displays a lot of the same talent for troubleshooting automotive problems. I can see my dad in Steve's face.

Steve has taken to filing away all his various records and receipts in an organizer. He doesn't want a credit card because he realizes his impulsive nature and credit would make a really dangerous combination. He's nearly paid off all his traffic tickets. Recently he started really working on his reading because there's a lot of information in specialized car magazines that he wants to be able to access. It's amazing, after all these years, to see him sit in a chair for hours reading.

As has always been the case, he gives great hugs.

The other day Steve ended up with some unexpected free time and asked me if I wanted to go to lunch with him. We had a good time, but better than the food and the company was the reward of seeing the gradual growing he's been doing, with more reasoning and foresight going into decisions, and realizing that some of the critical things I've been trying to impart all these years do indeed seem to be taking hold.


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