Monday, July 21, 2014

Pint-Sized Engineer

We're at the dentist. Thankfully, both big kids are pretty good about their appointments. Anna went first, and now it's Ethan's turn, and we've all crammed into the room since he didn't want to get his cleaning alone.

Ethan can't just sit down and watch the Disney show on the TV. He sits in the chair and sees wonder. As the hygienist makes the chair go up and then backward, he sits straight up.

"Where's the button you press to make the chair move?" He has to know, so she shows him. A few minutes later, as he's watching TV, he asks, "Is this TV connected to the chair?" The hygienist nods that indeed it is, and of course Ethan needs to sit up, get down and look underneath to see.

Then he wants to know about the light. "Why does it go on when you move it down and off automatically when you move it up?" The hygienist is unfailing patient. She explains about the magnet inside that turns it on and off depending on how the light is moved.

Ethan forgoes spitting into the swishy cup that sucks everything down the tube. The sound is too loud and scary. But he does want a closer look at the electronic toothbrush before she uses it on him. He watches the way it spins. He asks to touch it. He checks to see how that is hooked up as well.

As he's chatting with the dentist ("and I lost something like SEVEN teeth this year!") I marvel at his curiosity. I marvel in part because for a long time Ethan did not ask "why" questions and didn't seem to care about how things worked. He was never the perpetually curious child, and there are still subjects that don't hold his interest at all. Historical items and most animals immediately come to mind.

I also marvel because I see the blossoming of something. I get a glimpse at how flipping light switches, opening and closing doors, and playing with fans can lead to this, a fascination with the way electricity flows, the way mechanisms work. I marvel because this is so far removed from anything I would care about (once in junior high I was accidentally placed in an "occupational education" class instead of band and I couldn't change classes fast enough, when I found out they were starting out talking about circuitry...shudder!).

I think of Ethan following the paths of hoses; the loops of the slinky wires; and extension cords. I think about how in Maine two weeks ago, visiting with my uncle who lives up there, he wanted to know all about his generator and how it worked. For a moment I realize that obsessions, that strange fixations, can sometimes be harnessed into something more, into a career that could be a joy. I'm not sure exactly what that will look like for Ethan. But I can see. We can't just make him like things that don't interest him. He's okay. It's like they learned in VBS last week: "Even if I'm different, God loves me."

Someday, some kid will laugh as Ethan's pointing out the power lines or the fire alarms in the school hallways. I hope and pray he will hold his head up high. There are amazing things going on in that mind. He truly is fearfully and wonderfully made.

No comments: