There is an old family story of which I am the center. As a freshman in high-school, I had to write a paper on a subject of my choice. I chose the subject of English soccer violence. In the 80’s there was an outbreak of extreme fan “hooliganism”, which fascinated me as I never quite got (nor do I now) people being violently fanatical about a game.
The paper went a bit like this: “There is a lot of violence by fans in soccer stadiums. It is bad. I read these articles and you should as well.” For some reason, my parents found this sadly lacking and through Easter break I was limited to home or the library to re-write and re-research the subject. At that time, I learned about outlining and that there is a basic standard to writing (especially if I was going to have to have my parents as editors.)
The Boy has a passionate hatred of writing. For all of the words that spill out of his mouth, the absurd amount of information he keeps in his brain, processing that to paper is akin to bamboo slivers under the fingernails. Writing was one of the big obstacles in traditional schooling. If he wrote about the Titanic, the sentence would run “The Titanic was a big ship. Now it is all wet.” But ask him to tell you about the Titanic? Hold on to your hats! You’ll get all of the names of the engineers, the complete passenger list and the number of rivets in the damn ship.
To get us up to speed and to try to remove the hatred, I have introduced writing a weekly letter. One week to my parents and the next week to my in-laws. These are short notes at this point. I encourage him to be light, breezy and to outline (there’s that word again) three things of the past two weeks that we could tell them about. Today was the letter to my folks. The first draft covered: I will tell you three things I did last week. I made flash cards, I read a book and I ate some dinner.
Okay, I am not the most outgoing individual. It is a process for me to get up and go face the world. With traffic, crowds and expenses, I generally would prefer to stay at home, read a book and catch up on BREAKING BAD (I’ve just started Season 5…no spoilers please). But for my son, I have braved the outside world. Last weekend we went to a Renaissance Faire and earlier this week, we hit up the batting cages for the first time. This is the kind of stuff I would hope to see in a letter.
When I asked him why he didn’t mention anything about what we did in the last week, we looked at me with that deer in the headlight look he gets sometimes and said: “Honest, I don’t remember anything we did in the last week!” Even pressing him made me wonder if maybe he had absolutely no memory, but with a couple of verbal cues (and a noticeable decline in my patience, I am embarrassed to admit) some of the events did come back to him.
Tonight, we are starting a journal for him to which he can refer when things get muddy. Maybe I should stop smacking him in the head with his trombone?