Monday, January 31, 2005

Like Father, Unlike Son

Saturday morning Bev and I drove Joel down to Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights for his interview with Brown University, his first college interview. We left the house at around 7:30 AM for the 8:50 AM meeting since we didn't know exactly what kind of traffic and road conditions we might encounter along the way. Both were quite favorable, as it turned out. We had plenty of time to spare so we repaired to the Starbucks at the corner and had coffee and biscotti.

Bev and I sat on a bench in a corridor of the Packer Collegiate Institute while Joel was interviewed, Bev doing a crossword puzzle while I played Scrabble on my Handspring. Joel emerged at 9:25 AM and told us that he thought the interview had gone well.

We made it back home by 10:15.

The whole trip, between driving time and Starbucks time, gave us a more extended opportunity to talk to Joel than we ordinarily enjoy these days. Some of the time we talked, of course, about the interview. Other topics were covered, however.

At one point I told Joel that when we bought him a laptop I would like to get him a notebook webcam, so that we could conduct video Internet Messaging sessions every week or so. Joel didn't say no but he didn't seem entirely comfortable with a once-a-week schedule so I revised the request to "every so often".

In the car on the way home Joel said that he thought he would have gotten into computers more if I hadn't been a techie. Likewise, he thought he might have watched more classice movies and listened to more jazz had these not been enthusiasms of mine.

He wasn't expressing hostility to me, he said. I believe him. It is more a matter, I think, of Joel having to clearly define himself within our family constellation.

I've noticed, as I've watched him grow up, many similarities between the raw materials Joel and I had to work with at the outset of our childhoods. What has been fascinating has been to see how differently from me Joel has made use of those raw materials.

For example, I seem to have been born with very little athletic instinct. I used to joke, starting in my teenage years, that I was planning to open an embassy in my body . I have never engaged in sports, have never exercised much, have never been in shape. I don't even swim or dance. Joel does not seem to have been born with much athletic instinct either but he exercises regularly and has mastered some elaborate choreography for his stage productions. He may have, in some sense, started where I started but he has taken it in a completely different direction.

I believe I have had an influence on Joel's development but I don't believe that my influence has been at all straightforward. I have, after a long delay, begun reading Judith Rich Harris' book, The Nurture Assumption, and I've been thinking about these matters a lot, lately.

No comments: