Sunday, March 22, 2009

Talking about Gary

Roland took me to the see the PA (physician's assistant) yesterday, which gave us some precious time alone to talk about .... the kids of course.

We spent a big chunk of time talking about Gary. We agree that we need to talk to the job services coach, and maybe the social worker. We need to tell the job services guy that jobs in The City are not a good idea, that we do not want him to suggest to Gary that if he has difficulty getting to an exciting job in The City he should consider dropping out of brick-and-mortar school and go to virtual high school.

We are very much aware though that we are getting all our information from Gary. Based upon past experience I know that his conversations with the job coach could be something like:

Gary: "I might not be able to get there on the bus on time. Do you know if there a different way that I could finish high school?"
Job Coach: "Some people are doing high school through ____. You need to talk with your parents though. They might want you to stay in regular school."
Gary: "But if it was okay with them, it would work?"
Job Coach: "It could. We do have a study group on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the kids who are doing virtual school. Everyone comes in to work on whatever projects they are having trouble with. The kids who succeed are really organized and keep to a schedule."

Gary to US: "[Job Coach] says that I can do virtual school! He thinks I am really organized and so it will be even better for me. He helps people on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I get the job that is what I think I will do. This job would be perfect for me, because, you know, it will help me do exactly what I want to do for my entire life."

So I won't assume that the job coach is pushing this plan, but we do need to have a conversation.

So if you haven't kept up, Gary has had one interview at a martial arts place 30 miles away. The guy is looking for instructors (I'm pretty sure it is plural) with experience in martial arts whom he is willing to train. If I remember correctly, there is no actual payment for a while. He wants to exchange training for instruction. At some point, there is supposed to be the possibility of actual pay. And get this! The guy is going to open another location and one of the people he hires (the only one he hires?) will be in charge of the new location! And Gary is totally confident that this guy could pick him. I'm seeing this whole thing as good interview experience for Gary. I doubt that he is going to get the job, but would be a little worried if he did. The deal where he doesn't get paid but get promised the possibility of great rewards later is concerning, and the thing where he is considering dropping out of school and doing virtual school is very concerning. My experience with kids and virtual school has not been good. Roland and I both work full time and supervising a kid's high school education is not something we want to take on.

Roland and I are both interested in trying to figure out the whole over-confidence thing.

Several of you have commented that the over-confidence is probably actually a lack of confidence. I get that. I know that is what is happening.

I'm still trying to understand it though.

Carl expressed over-confidence, but it was accompanied by avoidance of risk and evidence of anxiety. I completely understood. He was worried about passing the test or getting the job or whatever. He lied to me and when he did so he convinced himself. It was half lying/half self-pep-talk. His dynamic was very much connected with being a people-pleaser. He wants you to think well of him. If I am critical of him he feels bad. He wants to change my opinion of him and he will quickly turn to lying to make that happen.

Carl's dynamic seemed an extreme form of something very normal.

David also expressed over-confidence, but the dynamic seemed deeper in his psyche. It is harder to explain. Though I know that somewhere deep inside David has anxiety about himself and his abilities, but it is very deep. David is a very sweet person to be around, but he doesn't attach. He isn't reactive. He doesn't punish people or try to scare them away. He doesn't seem to panic when he gets close. He just doesn't get close. It is all superficial. He is capable of turning off whatever there is. If I am critical of him, his conscious conclusion is that I am wrong and he needs to find someone who appreciates him.

I think that Carl is closer to emotional health. I think that he can develop a level of awareness of the dynamic and could develop healthier relationships with people and a better self-understanding.

David I love, and have less hope for. David may have a good life, but I think it will be very difficult for him to ever form healthy long-term relationships. The thought that he is wrong in any way is not permitted to enter his consciousness. He is right. He deserves to be treated like the princess he believes he is (his language for himself). It took me a year to suspect that he wasn't trying to be funny when he said some of the things he said. He believed them.

When I read the description of narcissistic personality disorder my heart sank.

I love David, and I know that at a very real way he is still the abandoned five-year-old who has to get himself and his baby brothers fed. He doesn't believe in love and relationships. He is committed to getting what he needs/wants. If he doesn't get it from one person then he has to find someone else. That kept him alive as a child.

Carl was well cared for as an a small child. In middle childhood his mother got sick and he became the caretaker. When she asked him how things were in school, she didn't really want to know. She wanted to hear that everything was fine, because she couldn't do anything about it. So he told her what she wanted to hear. He made her happy. He was in some ways a responsible adult and an irresponsible child. And he is still that kid. He still wants to be loved, and it is hard for him to believe that you will love him if you know the truth.

It is in this context that I wonder about Gary.

I know that the "I'm so great!" language actually masks something else.

What I am not sure about yet is how deep that dynamic is.

Roland thinks it is fairly isolated to being a fighter. His need to believe that he is great at martial arts is part of what makes him feel safe in the world.


  1. I think I agree with Roland about Gary and his martial arts.

    Also, can you share your virtual school experiences with me? You may or may not know that we homeschool our son, but he will be in high school soon, and we have contemplated virtual school just to make sure we don't miss anything.

  2. Anonymous7:12 PM

    You've been snarked!

  3. This is such a great post. You're brilliant at breaking things down like this.

    I really feel for Gary. He sounds like such a complex kid who's struggling with where he fits in the world.

    That last bit made me think of something else. Over here we have a group of Juniors at the CFA (Country Fire Authority - volunteer fire fighters). It's a great way for teenagers to be fit, learn to work together and compete against other teenagers in competitions involving fire fighting drills. There's also a lot of mentorship from the adult members. A lot of the kids aspire to be full time fire fighters when they finish school and they get a great sense of purpose and the feeling of contributing to society by being a part of the CFA. They don't actually respond to emergency calls, but some have gone out to help black out after the fires we had here recently.

    I was thinking if the mma stuff doesn't end up working out for him, something like that might. And it would give him the opportunity to compete physically while being part of a larger group. Bravado is certainly part of being a fireman, but is kept in check by the reality of what they face. Our guys certainly talk big, but are very much the humble heroes with the stuff that matters. It could also become a career opportunity for him if it was something that he enjoyed.


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