It is always my goal to understand how my son’s mind works. I think I have a pretty good handle on it. He’s very linear and the pieces will usually fit in a nice straight line, allowing me to go from observation of a behavior to a conclusion about how and why that behavior occurred.
To get there sometimes involves stepping back and trying to think like he does. Sometimes I do this purposefully, others by accident. Some efforts are more successful than others. I find, for example, that I am better able to understand what sets him off (though we still haven’t figured out the 60 shots on goal thing) than how he reaches the answer to a complex math problem.
For example, he can calculate a hockey goalie’s save percentage (saves divided by shots against, expressed as a three-digit decimal) in his head. But despite repeated questions, I still don’t know if he does the calculations or if he has just spent so much time looking at hockey statistics that he has memorized hundreds of saves/shots/save percentage combinations. I suspect the latter but I’m not completely sure.
I test my understanding of his mind by trying to predict certain behaviors, and when I am correct, it makes me feel closer to him.
I make a habit of checking both my kids’ Web-surfing history. I do this to keep them safe, not to spy. I tell them I am going to do it. Ryan’s history usually amounts to hundreds of pages of NHL box scores from NHL.com and little else. Riley’s is more interesting in that I am amazed at how proficient she is at using the Web to teach herself new things. She loves card tricks, and will spend hours watching videos of them on YouTube to learn for herself.
I knew Ryan had used my laptop yesterday, so when I turned it on this morning I took a peek at the history. Something (entirely benign) caught my attention. I saw that he had been to MLB.com to check the baseball scores. This by itself was not unusual; He has made a habit of checking the Washington Nationals’ scores and place in the standings ever since deciding he likes baseball and the Nats are his favorite team. I love that he does this. It shows me he’s serious about liking baseball because it’s important enough to him to treat it the way he does hockey.
No, it was something else that caught my attention. He had clicked on a Tigers-Red Sox box score. Since I’ve never heard him express any interest in either of those teams, I wondered what had caused this departure from routine. Departures from routine, no matter how small, are always noteworthy when it comes to Ryan because they are so rare.
Before I clicked through to see what was interesting enough about this game to cause him to look into it more closely, I recalled a conversation from that morning with a co-worker who happens to be a Red Sox fan. We were talking about the previous night’s baseball games and how there had been a bunch of nail-biters among the playoff contenders. As an aside, he mentioned how the Sox game had been a departure from the night before, which was anything but close. I vaguely recalled seeing an outrageous line score from a Red Sox game sometime in the previous few days.
Two and two came together in my ahead and quickly equaled four. I clicked through and saw exactly what had been so intriguing to Ryan:
Ryan’s interest in baseball is nascent enough that he is still building his library of rules that allow him to understand and relate to the game. At our first baseball outing he peppered me with questions, but not about players or teams. They were all about stats. What is the average number of hits, runs and errors for each team in each game? What’s a good batting average? What’s a good pitcher’s E.R.A.?
Doing so allows him to compare everything he sees to the rules he’s built and decide whether at particular player, game or event is interesting enough to call for further attention.
Twenty runs is decidedly outside the norm. It was beyond anything he considered possible, especially after I told him the average team scores between four and five runs per game.
I thought to ask Ryan about it as I was headed out the door. He looks at hundreds of Web pages per day and it had been almost 24 hours since he had looked at this one. I asked what was the baseball box score he was checking out the day before. He was excited to tell me how Boston had scored 20 runs!!!! against the Tigers.
Clicking through and finding my prediction was correct was immensely satisfying. A small piece of understanding, and therefore, connection. And I’ll take those moments wherever I find them, even in a baseball box score.