I Literally Have Nothing to Do!

Five days a week, before he does anything upstairs (including locking himself in his room, playing keyboard for five hours, or Face-timing his friends), Dylan is required to do 1.5 hours of school work, supervised and downstairs in the officeso that we can actually see that he’s working.

Because of previous arguments over how long he actually works, we’ve started setting a timer to discern the time limit.

Every day goes something like this:

(Dylan is upstairs.)

“Dylan! You aren’t allowed to be upstairs until your work is done!”

“I’m just doing one thing! Geez!”

“Do your one thing downstairs! I am sitting here waiting for you to start working!”

“I’m coming! I can’t believe you still expect me to find an hour-and-a-half’s worth of things to do!” (Dylan storms downstairs and starts tossing things out of his backpack.) “I don’t know how you expect me to do, like, all this stuff when I literally have absolutely nothing that I can possibly do!”

“I got an email from your teacher today, who says you are missing three things. Did you get that email?”

“Yes, and I already did it! I turned all that stuff in at school. I literally do all of my homework at school, and have absolutely nothing I can work on for a whole hour and a half!” (He sets up his laptop on the desk in the office.) “And this mouse totally won’t work, ever! I can’t get it to do anything! It doesn’t matter if I use the wire or if … well, now it’s working.”

There’s a moment of silence while Dylan looks at something on the computer.

“But seriously, I literally have nothing to do! Not one single thing! This is all stuff I already did. I just have to turn it in!”

“You can study for the SATs,” I say. “Or do some Spanish quizzes online.” (I motion to the list of web links I’ve left, in case he actually, ever, has nothing to do.)

“Like those would even help,” Dylan mumbles. He turns on music. This is usually the most obnoxious, growling, slash metal music in the world. He starts scrolling through his assignment possibilities on the computer, singing to the awfulness.

Sometimes he takes a break, gets a snack. We stop the timer, then start it up again.

I have to sit with him and supervise, or he chats with friends. The 1.5-hour block takes about three hours to complete.

But when I look over, he’s got six blank pieces of paper in front of him, something halfway written on the computer screen, and he’s diligently writing on both the papers and the computer. He’s tossing a tennis ball from hand to hand, while one hand holds a pencil and pauses occasionally to write on a piece of paper. His lanky body is usually sprawled half on the desk, half on the floor.

He does his work in a rather unorthodox way – a way that helps me to remember why school is so challenging for him.

By the time the 1.5-hour shift is over, Dylan is sitting on the floor, or on the bottom step of a kneeling chair, with his giant foot on the desk. He’s been singing nonstop – while working, even while writing. His laptop is sometimes tilted so far to one side, it’s nearly vertical. A fidget toy or a tennis ball is always nearby, or he’s completely revamped a paper clip so that it’s become a fidget toy. Dylan practically stands on his head, while lying on the ground, to finish his work.

But it’s finished.

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