The Transition Trip

I love seeing my sons together, even if it is via a Snap map

As a parent of a high school senior, the college search is often on my radar. After successfully launching Joe in person at his college of choice in January, I began to work with Luke on his search. To that end, back in March, I took Luke to get a feel for a Reed College in Portland, which at the time was his number one choice. Then, in June, we flew to the northeast because he wanted to visit Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. After that, I decided he needed to see some schools in the middle of the country, a little closer to home, so we visited three colleges in Minnesota. The schools on Luke’s list have largely stayed the same, but the order he has them ranked in has evolved several times. It’s been kind of exciting to see his process at work.

This weekend Luke is in Walla Walla, Washington, visiting Joe at Whitman College. Today he toured the campus and sat in on an information session. Initially, Luke had no desire to attend his brother’s school of choice because he was intent on finally setting himself apart from Joe. The boys have attended the same schools together since Luke started kindergarten, so I didn’t blame him for wanting to step out of his older brother’s shadow. Still, I couldn’t help but selfishly want them to end up at the same place again. They would still be a thousand miles from home, but they would be there together, at least for part of the time until Joe graduated. They could share a car and have family there for emotional support. It made sense to me, but it was never my choice to make so I decided to let it go and let the chips fall where they may.

Luke told me recently that Whitman had moved into the top spot for him. I think after doing a cost/benefit analysis of his situation, he realized that he would have time to make his own way as an upperclassman after his brother had graduated and gone on. And, in the meantime, he would have a support system at school, someone who could give him advice on professors and activities and dorms. He could start down his own path, make his own friends, but not be taking such a huge leap on living across the country alone. Joe could be a safety net for him as he branched out for the first time as an adult. Luke, for all his ideas and occasionally stubborn views about his future, usually lands squarely on the wisest choice.

Nothing is definite until the five schools Luke will apply to make their decisions, but I am solidly behind his selections and don’t think he could go wrong with any of them. Would I like it if he ended up with his brother in small town Walla Walla with its charming downtown, 140 local wineries, beautiful scenery, and pleasant weather? No. I would love it. I fell in love with Walla Walla two years ago when I toured Whitman with Joe the first time. But I will have to pull back my enthusiasm until the dust settles. It’s hard to be a parent as your kids transition into adulthood. What was once settled and routine and in your control gets upended. It’s your turn to go along for the ride. I keep wondering where we will end up.

For now, I will just be grateful that the two are together again tonight. All is right in my world. And probably in theirs too.

The Burger Brawl And Pickle Problem

We have two sons who were born three weeks less than two years apart. We have been fortunate. Our sons have been best buddies from Luke’s arrival. I don’t know how. People used to ask how often they fought. The answer was almost never. They like the many of the same things, but they are not alike in personality so they balance each other out. This is not to say that they don’t bicker, debate, tease, or torture one another. It’s just that it’s never been mean spirited. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They look out for each other. They love each other even when they are acting like jerks.

They are 20 and 18 now, which means they are legally grown. And yet their conversations often sound like the ones they’ve had forever. They love to argue about nothing. They have argued about nothing for as long as they’ve been brothers. Tonight in the car on the way home from In-n-Out, they were arguing about burger toppings. Luke, the purest, said the best burger was the basic one, just meat and bun. Joe’s burger choice, Luke said, was too complicated. Joe thought this stance was insane. A burger with pickles is NOT complicated. So, he began hazing Luke about a burger without pickles. The guys despise anything made with vinegar, but for some reason Joe’s vinegar aversion stops at pickles. Luke finds them disgusting. But, Joe has ADHD and that gives him a superhuman focus when he is invested. He was invested in arguing about pickles.

“What is wrong with pickles?” he prodded.

“I don’t want your vinegar cucumber chips,” Luke snapped.

And they were off. Bickering about nothing after a previous argument that was also about nothing…again.

Joe goes back in college in Washington in two weeks. Although I chided them in the car about their constant arguments about nothing, I will miss hearing them. Don’t tell my sons, but those arguments make my heart smile even as they make my mouth grumble. I think it’s because I know that no matter how old they get or how their lives change and grow, they will continue to get together, make each other laugh, drive us crazy, and squabble passionately about pointless things. That’s just what they do. It’s a gift.

I don’t know that Luke will ever like pickles, though. This argument might come up again.

The Best Brother In The World

Two peas in a pod

So this morning we had an actual face-to-face meeting with the school psychologist who did the testing on our youngest to determine if he has a learning disability. As she mentioned in her earlier phone conversation with me, her test results point to Luke having markers for dyslexia. Her report suggests Luke begin intensive tutoring with a dyslexia specialist, which he will start tomorrow. Two days a week for an hour he will be participating in remedial reading lessons. These will either help him fill in the gaps in his reading skills, which will prove he’s not dyslexic, or they help but not significantly, which will prove he is. In addition to this, she has also suggested that we have Luke tested for ADHD as she suspects he may have some of those issues as well.

I haven’t decided how I feel about this whole assessment. While I’m certainly not happy about either diagnosis, neither dyslexia nor ADHD are cancer or some other life-threatening condition. Things could most definitely be worse. Still, the thought of Luke struggling the way Joe struggles sucks. And, because of the joint issues of both boys, we may need to consider a different school for them. It’s a lot to take in. And, I suspect that I’m holding it together on the surface right now because I know it’s not about me. Having a mini-meltdown about the situation will not make Luke accept it with any greater ease. A mini-meltdown will not accomplish anything other than perhaps keeping me from needing a glass of wine and what kind of consolation is that?

As I’ve been working through all this in my brain, one positive thing did occur to me about it. Joe has, for three years now, felt bad that he is a stand-alone in this family in terms of needing extra support on things. That is no longer the case. Now, Luke will also have special needs that must be met. Joe has gone through tutoring and now Luke will endure the same. And, if Luke receives an ADHD diagnosis, whether or not we put him on medication, the two boys will have that in common as well. Joe will no longer feel like the odd man out.

This past summer, when Joe was taking a break from his medication, I had to have several conversations with Luke about how he needs to be patient with Joe because Joe struggles to do basic things Luke takes for granted. I told Luke that we all need to cut each other some slack. Today I had the occasion to have a long talk with Joe about Luke and his reading. I told him that he cannot make fun of Luke’s reading skills. I told him that we all have our issues, and reading is Luke’s. Joe is not allowed to ask Luke to read anything or to tease him when he gets something wrong. He’s not permitted to compare his reading skills to his brother’s skills. Reading will never be Luke’s strength, and the best thing we can do as his family is to reassure him that his difficulty with reading in no way diminishes his intelligence or makes us love him any less.

I am fortunate to have the boys I have. They adore each other. They always have. Luke has always stood up for Joe and Joe has always looked out for Luke. I know that although it’s a mixed blessing, having two boys with differences is still a blessing because they will better be able to understand and relate to each other. This is simply another thing they have in common, another thing that will draw them together. I may not be 100% certain about how I will be able to handle this new situation, but I have no doubt that my boys will be fine. They’re both bright. They’re both capable. And, they both have the best brother in the world.

It Registered At Idiot On the Moron Scale

Luke picking up the pieces while Joe tries to look contrite.

A while back, the boys and I were in the car and they started discussing terms for people who are lacking in intelligence. The conversation went something like this.

“Mom…Luke called me an idiot.”

“Luke, please don’t call your brother an idiot.”

“But, he was acting like one,” Luke argued.

“Still,” I replied, “it’s really not nice to call your brother an idiot.”

“Well, what can I call him then? Can I call him stupid?” Luke asked.

“Stupid is somewhat better than idiot, but it’s still not nice.”

“Dumb, then?” Luke continued.

“Okay. If you’re really looking for clarification,” I responded, “here’s what I think. I would say that dumb is probably the least harmful. Stupid is a bit worse. Idiot is truly unkind. I’d prefer you not call each other idiot, even if the other one is acting like one.”

“There’s another word, Mom,” Joe added. “I hear you say it in the car sometimes. It starts with a J.”

Caught. I do utter the word “jackass” while driving. It’s the only swear word that my kids hear me say. I try to refrain from swearing too much in front of them, although it is difficult because when they’re not around I can keep up with a sailor.

“Okay, then. Put the J-word after idiot in terms of being bad. So, if you hear me telling another driver they’re a jackass, then they’ve escalated right to the top of the moron scale.” And, that’s how the moron scale was born.

Today, my boys were playing Legos together. Luke is the Lego King. He is (and always has been) amazing with Legos. Joe? Not so much. It’s not only difficult for Joe to build Legos, but it seems to be difficult for him to keep them in tact. He has many times been punished for messing with Luke’s built Lego sets and destroying them, presumably by accident. At any rate, Joe was struggling to put two pieces together today, and Luke was waiting on him. Luke could not understand what Joe’s problem was because, by his mind, this was an easy task. Then, I heard the tattletale call from the living room.

“Mom…Luke called me stupid. And then he called me an idiot.”

The I-word is grounds for trouble in our house, so I called Luke in to talk to me.

“Luke…I’ve told you before. Do not call your brother an idiot.”

“Well, he was being an idiot. He couldn’t get these two Lego pieces together. It’s so easy!”

“Hey, Luke,” I told him, “Legos are more difficult for Joe. You need to cut him some slack. If you call him an idiot again today there will be a consequence and you will likely be cut-off from Lego You Tube videos for at least a day.”

“Okay. Okay,” Luke whined.

As he was walking back to meet his brother in the living room, I heard a big crash. I rounded the corner to see Joe standing there with what was left of a Lego plane Luke had built earlier this morning. Half the ship was in his hands. The other half was in pieces on the floor. Without missing a beat, Luke turned around and looked at me with a see-what-I-mean expression.

“Now can I call him an idiot?” was all he said.

I love my boys. They don’t always get along, but their predictability is amusing.