I swear everything he does is a mystery to me these days. All I know is that you can't write stories about the performance of the real estate market in Woodside, California, when you have a bored Jawa sitting a few feet away, sending unspoken death rays you way in the hopes that you'll be suddenly stricken with stomach cramps or a migraine, whatever it would take to get you off of your laptop, leaving it free for his use.
The problem, as far as I can tell, is that his little tiny laptop -- the one we bought last spring to solve his poor handwriting dilemma, which I thought was pretty only-child over-the-top, only to find that (according to my child) a majority of his classmates had been using netbooks in class for months -- will not accept/run the software required to make certain Legos turn into robots. I may be simplifying. Or missing something entirely.
However much I've shanked my understanding of what he's doing down there, whatever it is made him so angry about an hour ago that he was on the verge of tears. Here's a quick definition of an almost-13-year-old: when they get frustrated, they don't know whether to cry or unleash a string of profanities. So what you get is, "FFFuuuudgggee! (sob)." A more patient parent would walk over and say, brightly, "Don't let that computer get you down! Lets work on this together!"
Thank you, Ned Flanders. But I am not this patient, saintly parent. By now you should all be very aware of that. I am the parent sitting at the kitchen table, dreaming of one day having a home office, trying to glean something interesting from several columns of statistics regarding the real estate market in Woodside, California. So instead of going all Flanders, I just look up, stop typing and say, succinctly, "Look, if that thing is going to make you that mad, then you should just stop using it."
And in return I expect what, logic? "You know, you're right, Dad." Somewhere between the age of 12 and 45 I managed to forget how obnoxious and unhelpful it is to respond to a bored child with "You say you're bored? Well, why don't you go clean up your room?" Or something like that.
Small books were thrown about the room. Shack went and hid in the corner. Sarcasm was employed, as were attempted guilt trips. "I could get this to work on your computer. It would only take a second."
Why the program won't work on the little computer (or the massively powerful desktop hidden under several layers of clothing in his bedroom) but would work on mine, which uses the EXACT SAME (deeply flawed) OPERATING SYSTEM remained as mysterious to me as Jack Nicholson's continued popularity with women.
This was an hour ago, an eternity in teen time. Thirty minutes ago, he brightened up. "I figured out how to do this," he said. "I can use a different programming language." And then, quoting from the how-to page for the different programming language, he mumbled something about boolians.
The kid tells me today that he'd really like to get one of those "build your first computer" kits, even though he is at a disadvantage when compared to his cousin and a friend at school. Their fathers are "into technology," he explained.
"They also probably have more room to build a computer," I countered, using all of the communicative savvy I have had the time to develop while those other fathers were helping their sons develop a love of technology.
This is a new issue, but one that has become very important -- at least to me -- over the past few months. After nine years in the same 1,100 square-foot (1,500 counting the unwarranted space downstairs), our home is too small to hold a Type-A person, a freelancer, a teenaged Jawa, a small but dense dog and a hamster. Every night, Sandra Bullock is faced with a decision: to eat at the table, and thus force me to remove the stuff I've spread out there during the day, which I do with as little grace as possible, since it's a big pain in the neck to have to set up my stuff day after day, or to acquiesce and eat dinner in front of the TV.
What if our house had two more rooms -- one would be an office, where I could go and not have to pretend I'm listening to people who start conversations with me when I'm deeply committed to making Woodside's real estate market a readable topic. Another would be a room for the Jawa, where he could build massive Lego projects, learn boolian logic and, yes, assemble a home computer.
And maybe a guest room, because Sandra Bullock has always wanted a "dedicated guest room."
We are as likely to get these things as we are to someday own a $3 million beachfront home in Cayucos. Instead, I think I will bring my laptop and various gridded notebooks to the Bar Mitzvah, since its cost is essentially the same as adding three rooms to our house. The living room floor is a fine place to apply boolian logic to Legos. Maybe he can build a Lego robot that knows carpentry.
Sandra Bullock just leaned over me and said, "Are you done with what you have to do? I mean, are you going to need to work at the table more? Because if you're done, you can put your stuff away and set the table." And then, wrongly assuming that my less-than-pleased response had something to do with me not wanting to set the table: "Or you can just put it away and I can set the table."
After that, she went back to the kitchen, where I caught her hyper-intensely focused, carefully wrapping what looks like flowered wallpaper around a tin can.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm trying to see if this double stick tape will work better than the single-sided tape." For the candles, you know. Turns out there are four kinds of Japanese candles, four candles per table for a total of 100 candles. All of them will be wrapped in Japanese wallpaper stuff. Remember this when you're sitting at a table, completely focused on trying to make conversation with the strangers sitting across from you, and your eyes settle on the little candle carefully placed next to the centerpiece.
It's the little things, you know.