The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Care and Feeding of Techies

I didn't know I was raising a techie. I should have. He loved to take things apart and now and then he'd put them together again with only a minimum of leftover parts. We'd get him really great toys, and he would get cranky when his father would play with them. (After all, he'd been in school all afternoon, being forced to do what everyone else was doing rather than what he wanted. Who could blame him?)

His father's idea, of course, was to pass on to his son the wonders of mechanical and technical stuff. To that end, he had Capselas - plastic rounds with various gears and stuff in them that, when connected, could create any number of things. It was French, I remember, and we bought it out of a mark-down bin after Christmas one year. He had a little programmable ATV type thing - complete with a trailer - upon which he would place dog biscuits and send the thing off to treat the dog, who was deathly afraid of it. And he had Legos. Now, most folks wouldn't associate Legos with a techie - but the sheer number of parts and pieces (whatever the vacuum cleaner didn't get) was mind boggling. Out of little pieces can grow great things. We bought several sets of various sizes, threw away the boxes, and poured them all into a 5 pound plastic pickle pail we begged from McDonald's. It was slightly less than half full. I had wanted to fill the entire bucket and see what this boy would come up with, but he grew up before it could happen. Sigh. They do grow up too fast.

But I digress. When the first inkling comes that you may be raising a techie (how many 8 year olds do you know who play chess? And win - against grown-ups? ) you realize that his brain is probably wired a bit differently than most folk. Now pay attention here - this is important: Don't expect techiness to show up on a report card. Sometimes it will, but don't expect it. Science projects and lab classes may bore the budding techie -- and that is one thing one must never do. NEVER bore a techie.

What will show up is a curiosity about everything, a hunger to know. This is the kid that will dig up a seed two days after he plants it to see what takes place underground before the green part shows above ground. He will collect pieces/parts of things and put them together in strange ways - to the onlooker. In his head he is creating a solution to a problem no one but he is aware exists. He may read biographies at an early age and find heros in scientists, inventors, innovators and such.

You may also note that your techie is a 'hands on' person. Jigsaw puzzles may come easily to a techie because his perception is great. Challenge the techie with an all black circular jigsaw puzzle and you may keep him busy for a few minutes.

The care of techies? Look out for his physical needs. He doesn't often have time to get a haircut or get his laundry done. You know you can't tell him when to give up his project and go to bed (unless this is a child techie in training - in which case, by all means, exercise parental authority and strong-arm him into bed at a reasonable time. But let him stay up with his projects during vacation or on weekends, still requiring his presence in the daytime for his usual chores, etc. It won't take him long to figure out the human brain is much more reliable with sufficient sleep. After that, you'll probably still have to remind him, but if the reminder takes the form of a one hour, then a fifteen minute warning, it is better accepted.) When small, it will probably be necessary to remind the little techie to put his clothes in the hamper, go outside now and then and get some fresh air, and even to come to the table to eat. When grown, of course, none of this reminding will make much difference, but you can do it anyway, if you like.

Just don't nag. Techies have a way of shutting off reception of voices that seem to be saying the same thing all the time. If you want to continue a meaningful relationship, speak of many things and nag and grump as little as possible.

I cannot stress enough how awful it is for a techie to be bored. Left to his own devices, a techie seldom enters this state, and it may be that to avoid boredom he changes projects often, going from one to another and possibly picking up a third or fourth project at the same time. In his head, each project is related to the others, if only because HE is working on all three or four or ten...

Feeding? Most techies will eat most anything. Fast food fills the bill, but if you are stocking the pantry for a techie, go heavy on the healthy hand-held food. Keep coffee, cola or other stimulants under wraps for the younger ones (who need more sleep) but a full grown techie will have his own favorites, and if you watch closely, you will find out whether you are dealing with a coffee/cola powered techie, a tea techie, or a techie who doesn't consciously choose - just absorbs what is left out for him. Tricky? Yep. But not nearly as tricky as a teenage girl. For that be grateful -- unless your particular techie IS a teenage girl.

Techies do come in both genders, of course. I am of the old school, and refer to an unknown person as 'he' rather than the recent grammatically hideous 'they' when referring to the unknown person (singular, yet!) My only option would have been to he/she his/her throughout, and that is tedious for me. I much prefer to annoy feminists and those who insist we be politically correct. I would rather be grammatically correct and let the femmies and PC people figure it out for themselves.



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