This post is about Alexander. Not Alex: Alexander. He’s quite precise about this. He’s got a touch of Asperger Syndrome himself, does Alexander, but we never diagnosed it until about a year ago. Maybe I didn’t want it to be true. Judi spotted the signs before I did. Little things would frustrate him: his teacher would say Music Class was at 12:45 and the students wouldn’t leave until 1 PM. Or, his brother’s turn on the computer was an hour and three minutes, instead of our proscribed hour. His days would often begin (and end) in tears or rages, which immobilized his mind for about 20 minutes, until he could calm himself. These outbursts happened regardless of social situation: in class, at the library, (especially) at home.
Alexander’s best friend is his brother Daniel, which means, of course, if they spend more than a couple hours in the same room, their parents should invest in serious therapy and possibly facial reconstruction surgery. Alexander likes things fair, which means, of course it’s not fair unless he says it’s fair.
He has a brilliant sense of humor, and the most contagious laugh of any person I’ve ever known. He also has a nails-on-chalkboard screech that could coax the banshees out of Ireland just to see who made that christalmighty awful sound. Judi and I are thrilled to announce the changing-of-the-voice. His laugh isn’t as cute as it was when he was eight; neither, thank God, is his scream of annoyance quite so piercing.
I’m convinced that boredom, and not education, is the great equalizer. People do more dumb stuff before 8 AM, only because they’re bored, than any other reason on earth. It’s why Adam and Eve partook of the fruit. All that was on TV was reruns of Married, With Children, and a Best Moments marathon on the Lint Channel (which is ironic: it’s a theological fact that they had no navels…) This is Alexander. When he had his first loose tooth, he decorated it by shoving a half dozen shiny plastic sequins between his gums and the new tooth. Of course, he didn’t bother to tell his parents until his system began to reject the foreign objects stuck between his tooth and the supporting tissue. When he was four and helping me in my office, he snipped a mouse cord with a sharp pair of scissors. He also decided to paint an entire computer monitor with WhiteOut. He’s not so deliberately destructive when he gets bored anymore but he still languishes dramatically when the pace slackens.
He’s quite brilliant. He was accepted to Level IV AAP this year, which means he’s in a cohort of the smartest of the brainy kids in one of the most competitive school districts in the United States. He’s taking, and excelling in, honors algebra this year. He’s an excellent writer, and loves the creative process, provided he can do it on his own terms, in his own time. He’s taking drama and choir, and is involved with an after-school comedy improv club.
He models himself after Daniel because (even if he doesn’t admit it) he idolizes his brother. For a long time Alexander and Daniel even had matching speech disfluencies. They enjoy the same television shows, and the same video games, and are often floating into each others’ rooms, sharing whatever new tidbit about whichever game-of-the-week they both enjoy. Daniel has introduced Alexander to his favorite book series, his favorite television shows, and many of his favorite video games. They both vie competitively to be the area-experts in whatever field they’re discussing. Their conversations are witty and (often unintentionally) hilarious to listen into. I promised myself I wouldn’t make this blog about them but about Alexander, and I find myself veering more toward their interactions as brothers. It’s inescapable: Alexander wouldn’t be who he is without Daniel in the picture.
While he was in kindergarten, he came home after having seen the first Harry Potter movie, and announced “I don’t want to be Alexander anymore. From now on, I want to be called Fred.” From that day on, we’ve called him Fred, or FredFredBurger, or AlexFredAnder, depending on the day. He was so pleased with our agreeable posture toward his namechange, that the next week he announced “I don’t want to be called Fred anymore. Now, I want to be called George.” We told him, “Sorry. Only one first-name change per lifetime.” As usual, he’s okay with stuff, as long as he knows the rules ahead of time.
Alexander loves cooking, and is a devotee of Alton Brown’s program Good Eats. About six months ago, he started pestering me to make homemade egg nog. I told him I don’t like it, so he pestered me to make homemade egg nog, and then I told him I don’t like it. So, after that, he began pestering me to make homemade egg nog (which, incidentally, I don’t like). Did I mention the kid never gives up on a thought? His first words of the day are almost NEVER good morning, but a random thought or fact. Recently it’s been “Did you know that egg nog isn’t actually a dairy product but a custard.” No I didn’t, Alexander. That’s because I don’t like the stuff.
As for television programs, he generally loves idiots who fall down a lot. Patrick Starr from SpongeBob is hilarious. He’d be the world’s biggest fan of the Three Stooges if he could see their old clips.
He’s extremely noncommittal: if you ask him how he likes his ice cream, he’ll respond with “It’s ice creamy.” How is your day at school? “Schooley.” He can’t seem to summon the words to create an opinion about things. This often poses a problem in English class if he’s asked to reflect on a topic. Of course, if he’s asked to spout facts? not a problem.
Well, that’s Alexander, or as close as I can manage. Describing my boys is not unlike painting a Rembrandt with a roller brush and felt-tipped markers: Alexander is an amazing person. Anecdotes don’t capture his finesse, while observations gloss over the most important bits. I hope someday you get to know him better for yourselves.