From the beginning, high school has been a challenge to my young man, who has found great difficulty with academics, and who's talent lies in hands-on subjects such as music, art and sports. And yet he has perservered, and despite finally receiving a formal educational diagnosis of Autism and Specific Learning Disability, he has also made numerous friends who accept his ways as a given. Kids these days do seem to be much more accepting of differences among themselves, even as they navigate a world that seems less and less accepting of them.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
From Boychick to Man
"In a place where there are no menschen,
you be a mensch."
In the past several years, the boy I called Boychick here on my blog has been busy growing up.
After acquiescing to his request to go to high school, I have not featured him here very much, preferring to give him his privacy as he went about this business of learning to be a man. In the process, he went from being my Boychick--my favored (and only) boy-child, to being the Rasta Jew--who was quite enamored with Reggae music and then with trucks and the Dukes of Hazzard.
From last March until now, as the Engineering Geek and I have been putting into place our plans for Going Galt, the Rasta Jew has been considering his own future as well. It took a good deal of courage to tell me, his scholarly mother, that university studies were not part of his plans.
And it has taken some work on my part to let loose the apron strings and let him dream his dreams. And yet, at the same time, it is immensely satisfying for me to see the changes that his choices has wrought within him. On his IEP in the spring of his freshman year, he said that he wanted to be a Rock Star when he grew up. This seemed like the same kind of starry eyed ambition as the first grader who wanted to be an astronaut or a fireman. But in the past six months, the obsession with trucks has become an obessession with engines and now they work--an obsession that includes a great deal of work and study to understand them in great detail.
When we closed on the ranch in Catron County in August, we began to plan in earnest for the EG's retirement, and for the move. At that time, I gave the Rasta Jew a choice. He could either stay at East Mountain High School and we would make arrangements for him to stay with his sister or friends, or he could move down with us to the ranch. At the time this choice was presented, our young man had seen the ranch just once, and although he loved it, the whole project was not real to him and he seemed inclined to stay at East Mountain. But starting Labor Day weekend, we began spending two or three weekends a month at the ranch, and he began spending time with a genuine Cowboy, Mr. H., and learning some of the skills we all needed to know. He repaired fencing, put in line, chopped wood, built fires, and learned to rope. And his plans began to change.
At the same time, the Junior level curriculum at his college prep high school was becoming quite a challenge. A month in to school, it was recommended that he drop German Language and add a Structured Study Hall in order to focus on two academic courses, as well as his beloved music class, World Rhythm. He still struggled both with the kind of writing that was being demanded in his humanities, as well as with the pace of the work, as well as in math. He began to realize that his talents and the skills he was developing did not lie with academic work in the classroom, but with his ability to take things apart and put them back together in order to get them working--whether it was an electric guitar or a drive-shaft that fell out of his truck.
So in October, when we visited Quemado High School in Catron County, he was far less interested in the Calculus class being taught to students in classrooms in three different schools across 100 miles through the magic of technology, than he was in the fact that the school has an excellent wood shop, metal shop and welding program. Such opportunities are now almost non-existent in the urban schools as kids are pushed toward college whether they have the talent and the inclination for it or not. A discussion of the FFA program and 4-H, both of which take place during the school day, got the wheels turning in his head, and a few weeks later, with the help of his very special Special Education coordinator at East Mountain, he announced that he was going to move with us to the ranch.
Since then, we have seen remarkable peace and purpose descend upon him; he has a vision for his future, and it is very specific. He wants to learn welding and auto-mechanics, and plans to attend a trade school for those skills, and then he wants to open his own business in Catron County, and live at the ranch. A rancher needs to be a master of many of the trade skills, plus animal skills, and the Rasta Jew's ambition is to take over the ranch from us one day. He loves working the cattle, and gets up without complaint of a snowy morning to bring them feed and get wood ready for the fire.
He has begun to study the things he will be learning to fulfill his plans. He has been reading up on horses, to better care for his horse, and he spends as much time working his saddle as he does playing his guitar. He keeps Faye E. Ward's The Cowboy at Work by his bed, as well as the Horseman's Almanac. And he pores over the technical manuals for his Jeep, and has developed innovative ways to replace parts that can no longer be found. Thus has the Boychick cum Rasta Jew become the Cowboy in Training (CIT).
It has been a wonderful transformation to watch, as his purpose unfolds bringing with it a new maturity and sense of responsiblity.
No longer a Boychick, he is becoming a man, and is beginning to show the purpose and the promise that comes when a boy puts away childish things, in order to create a life that satisfies his own desires and understandings. For to be a mensch--a real man, a real human being--is to become a person who does not do what is expected, but what is right. And he chooses his own path, putting away the childish desire to do what he thinks his parents want, or to be like others. And with that choice comes a new sense of purpose and a new responsibility to make of his life something he can truly love.