the fourth child

When my older daughter left home (town/the state/the entire South), my younger son inherited her room. We let him set it up as he wanted; our only requirement was that he couldn’t block the natural light or block the access to the attic (a pull-down staircase in the ceiling).

According to me, the room is pretty much a wreck, full of his on-going projects, way too much furniture, dust dinos, and lots of discarded clothing, but he loves it, so that’s cool.

He spends long hours up there, reading in bed, working on projects, and listening to the radio.

The child is a thrift store fanatic. Every now and then he calls up his grandmother to see if he can ride along next time she goes thrifting, and one afternoon they spent upwards of three whole hours there. The bulk of his spending money gets eaten by that place, and he’s forever hauling home boxes piled high with found treasures: computer monitors and loads of books, watches (they all broke) and movies, HDMI cords, a VCR player.

count the monitors

He loves technology. He has two computers — one is an old desktop from his uncle and the other is a laptop without a screen, which he is attempting to make useable via one of his thrift store monitors and the HDMI cord. He’s teaching himself coding and how to use the drawing programs.

Speaking of technology, for the older three kids we had a firm no-tech rule until age 16, at which point they were allowed to get a phone, computer, gmail account, etc. All the kids fudged the rule a bit, in one way or another, but for our younger son, we’ve all but thrown it out the window entirely BECAUSE, unlike the other three who were (are) to varying degrees into social media, this kid is head-over-heels with the tech part of it: the programming and problem solving. His approach to it feels different — smartphones don’t tug at him (he says he plans to get a flip phone when he turns 16), and he’s all about the cool cords and ports and all that boring junk — so have at it, I say.

He’s growing his hair out, says he wants to wear it in a ponytail.

I’m fine with long hair, but the in-between stage, the hair-in-the-eyes sloppy bit, makes me nuts. I tell him to tie it up in a little sprout of a ponytail on the top of his head, or wear a bandana, or style it, something, anything. I even bought him mousse and have become his personal stylist whenever he has to go out. Blown out, his hair reminds me of Steve Harrington in Stranger Things.

Kiddo is a chatterbox. Usually it’s just loud commentary about EVERYTHING, but occasionally he pops out with something so quirky I actually write it down. Like, “I don’t think I have the right wrists to be a watch model. My wrists are flimsy pieces of bone.” Or, “Should I start a malady fund?”

He loves shrimp and recently splurged on a whole bag of it at Costco, which then prompted him to announce, “I’m going to start saving up five dollars a month for shrimp and then at the end of the year I’ll buy a ten-pound bag.”

“A primitive selfie.”

He is incorrigibly, insatiably, obnoxiously curious. He loves to research, and is forever running downstairs to tell me about some new concept he just figured out (and that I don’t care about), and he fires questions at a such a rapid clip it often feels like a verbal assault. For example — and this is only one very small example — one afternoon when the two of us were driving into town, he said, “What’s cliché?” I, feeling uncharacteristically generous, gave a lengthy, thoughtful explanation complete with examples. When I finished talking, he, without missing a beat, said, “Now. What’s communism?”

Multiple times a day, I find myself shouting at him to just PLEASE be quiet for a minute. On rides to town, I’ll often forbid him from speaking for a certain distance just so I can have a moment with my thoughts. Or, at the supper table, we tell him he can’t talk for five minutes.

Oddly, he’s amazingly upbeat about getting yelled at all the time. He always was a sunny kid.

He adores Radio Lab and NPR and is wildly hooked on The Moth Podcast. He loves YouTuber Mark Rober and Idiots at Work and Twisted Sifter. Lately, he’s been absorbed in the Jurassic Park books (he kept calling it “Jurastic” Park), Bloody Jack Adventure books, The Final Six, The Inheritance Cycle series. He loves Christmas carols, knows a bunch of Ray Steven’s songs verbatim, and for awhile he subsisted entirely on the Aladdin soundtrack. With my husband and me, he’s watching Alone on Netflix. He’s my British Baking Show buddy, and I’m watching Schitt’s Creek (again) with him. He’s seen all seven of the live-action Spiderman movies, and he’s watched Spiderman Homecoming about five times. He can hold his own in almost any Marvel movie conversation.

He likes to dream up improvements to the milking shed — summary: he wants to build a barn and is designing a 3D structure on Sketch Up — and he’s saving money for a bike, college, a car, the barn, a soldering station, and he has a fund for wind and solar power, as well as tools. He has dreams of buying a 150,000-watt windmill.

His big physical presence (he’s six foot three and still growing fast) combined with his cheery disposition and disregard of personal space often makes us edgy. He is forbidden from eating in the living room because he often spills. (He disagrees with this, says he spills one in twenty times. And I disagree with that.) His room is cluttered with empty popcorn and cereal bowls and hot chocolate mugs. Whenever I have any leftover goodies — recently, chocolate cake, apple strudel, coffee cake — he swoops in and saves the day.

We’re forever having to repeat ourselves to him because he’s a) lost in his thought, b) has headphones in. He’s stridently conscientious, and exhaustingly particular about the absolute literal truth, and I can guarantee he’s going to read this and then correct every single thing I didn’t get just absolutely correct.

Because that’s just the sort of kid he is.

This same time, years previous: 2020 garden stats and notes, the quotidian (12.9.19), the quotidian (12.10.18), yeasted streusel cake with lemon glaze, managing my list habit, okonomiyaki, iced, smoking hot, a family outing, peanut butter cookies.


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