Anne Notations

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kevin Skywalker

Slacker or deep thinker? Wiseass or softie? When it comes to our 15 year old son, the jury's out.

You know how the media has insinuated that Angelina Jolie lavishes attention and love on her adopted children and ignores her biological daughter, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt? You don't? Good; you have more of a life than I do.

Sometimes I've wondered if I am less apt to brag and blog about our biological son Kevin – my 40th-birthday surprise – than about Melinda and Andrés. Am I guilty of reverse discrimination, or perhaps (and worse) have I harbored lower expectations for our adopted children than for our birth child, thus rejoicing publicly about the formers' accomplishments? I hope not. Besides, Kevin isn't easy to brag about. A fretful, screaming baby, he has tested us with his intense and contrary personality and his tendency to favor immediate fun over eventual rewards, e.g., good grades.

The truth is, my bond with Kevin is intense, and not just because I incubated his hiccuping, thrashing little body for nine months. He is complicated, contradictory, not easily summed up in either glowing or exasperated terms. He's a smart kid who likes to act dumb, a natural loner who loves his friends more than life, a macho cynic who slept with his old plush seal until just a few years ago.

He reminds me in many ways of me. In other ways, emphatically not.

Michael and I have spent the better part of the last 15 months worrying about Kevin. He bombed his freshman year at La Salle last year, flunking two courses first quarter and generally underperforming and avoiding work. By midyear he had developed a chronic gastrointestinal disorder - vomiting, cramps, pain - that ultimately was diagnosed at the pediatric GI clinic as stress-related overproduction of stomach acids. He has been on a double adult dose of prescription antacid since April and missed nearly 30 days of school last year. He gets psychotherapy for stress management. Oy!

I suspect Kevin may be saved, as I was after college when I had no job and few prospects, by his gift for expression and writing. As a small tot, he was precociously verbal and original. We walked by a group of hippie-artsy college students playing strange medieval instruments in a local park one summer day when Kevin was about four. He stared, then said, "Mommy. That sounds like ducks fainting on a hot day." One night when I was sautéing our supper on the stove, Kevin remarked, "Fortunately, my markers smell a lot better than that chicken." A preschool angry epithet: "You're a plump rock!" Showing me his blue Beanie Baby elephant: "'Peanuts' eats raw, dead corn."

Kevin was a mordantly funny little boy, beetle-browed and intense, not naturally friendly like his big brother Andrés. I confess that I sometimes feared he might have a touch of Asperger syndrome. At age 5 we sent Kevin to a spring vacation soccer camp near my office. Each noon I would pick him up and, after inquiring about the drills and scrimmages, ask, "Did you talk with any of the other kids today?" Invariably, the blunt answer was "no." Finally, on the last day of camp, I settled him in his car booster seat and asked one more time: "Did you talk with the other kids?" The answer: "Yes." Yes! I couldn't help gushing, "Great! What did you say? Who did you talk to?" Kevin: "I called the other team names."

Lately I have seen Kevin's adolescence-stunned brain sparking back to life. This fall he informed me that he enjoyed philosophy (part of this sophomore religion curriculum at his Catholic high school) and hoped to take philosophy courses in college. Since he likes nothing more than a good argu– err, debate, this is less surprising than it seemed at first.

Earlier this week Kevin came downstairs from instant-messaging a friend on his computer. "Mom!" he said, animated. "I 'owned' Henry in a debate about religion just now." His friend is a self-described atheist, "and I'm not," Kevin announced firmly. "I won. Ha!"

His hazel eyes sparked with the fun of winning a verbal smackdown. I was cheered by the sight of our often-ornery boy, now 5'11", smart as a whip, and halfway into manhood, taking pleasure in a well-played intellectual sparring match.

The kid is all right. I hope. (fingers crossed)


Post a Comment

<< Home