At six, Cal was the delight and despair of his bewildered parents. He was the tail-end of the family with an 18-year-old sister now in college and a sixteen-year-old brother finishing high school. In more ways than one, he was a late surprise. His siblings were both ENTJs. They were fine students and very accomplished in many areas. Although they certainly challenged their parents with their questions, ideas and arguments, both fit in well at school, enjoying both the social life and the structured learning environment. The parents had taken the trouble to put them in an expensive private school from kindergarten on, where their good minds were challenged pretty steadily. The school curriculum, rules and regulations were all very strict. In private the two siblings laughed at many of the procedures, but as strong Judgers, they were actually pretty comfortable.
Then came Cal. He was definitely not a joiner, and all efforts by his kindergarten teacher to make him one simply backfired. Sometimes he did the class projects, and sometimes he just sat alone, seemingly lost in thought. Once when he didn’t return from the bathroom his teacher went in to find him busily dismantling the toilet mechanism, with water running all over the floor. (He just wanted to see how it worked!) The rules drove him up his little wall. No running except on the playground, no hitting or name-calling, no talking during quiet periods. No. No. No! By the end of his kindergarten year he had been in the Principal’s office five times. This was probably a record for a kindergartener.
Things at home were similarly grim. His siblings had been great about taking care of their possessions, getting their homework done, and generally falling in line with what their parents asked, at least in their early years. Cal regarded every request as a violation of his civil liberties. He was never without an argument. Brushing teeth was a silly waste of time; dogs don’t do it and their teeth are sharp and ready to go. When told that the family dog kept her teeth clean by constantly chewing on Nylabones, he demanded one for himself. Finally, they got him an electric toothbrush. This appealed to his gadget nature and seemed to solve the problem for a while—until they discovered that he brushed the dog’s teeth with it as often as he brushed his own! It was the same sort of problem with everything his parents asked of him, and they were totally unprepared for this.
While Calvin was interested in just about everything, mechanical and electrical gadgets totally focused his attention. Taking things apart to see how they work was the biggest thrill. (Putting them back together was just work, since there was not much new to learn.) His dad was something of a car buff and had two antique roadsters in his garage that he tinkered with frequently. Cal just loved going out and watching parts come out and go back in. Nothing in the house was sacred, and this precipitated one crisis after another. The day he decided to explore the vacuum cleaner was a great example. He got it all open, but was stumped by some very tight belts that went around a set of pulleys. In the garage he sorted through his dad’s tools until he found something that might work to push the belts off. Unfortunately, it was a wood rasp that had a rather sharp edge. Using it on a belt he managed to tear the belt, but still couldn’t get it completely off. He gave up, put the cover back on and put the vacuum away. About an hour later his mother started it up, cleaning up in preparation for company. The stressed belt gave way and the vacuum quit. Being no mechanical slouch herself, she checked the belts and found clear evidence of tampering. To his credit, Cal admitted that he had been working on it.
Mom’s patience just snapped. She had company coming in just a little while and no replacement for the broken belt. With unaccustomed fury she sent Cal to his room to “stay there forever!” and proceeded to clean up with broom and dustpan. For a brief period Calvin was duly impressed with the anger he had aroused, although he felt it was excessive for the problem. After all the broom worked okay. When his dad came home and was equally furious, forbidding him to even go into the garage for the next month, he was forced to take it a little more seriously.
Cal stayed on his good behavior for quite a long time with respect to household appliances. Eventually his dad relented and let him come out to the garage again so they could tinker together. About a year after the infamous vacuum incident Calvin was allowed to help in dismantling and cleaning the carburetor for his dad’s Model T roadster. He had been studying about the human heart in school in his science module and he was fascinated with the idea that carburetors pumped gas just as the heart pumped blood. He watched his dad take it out and separate all the parts, and got to help in wiping and cleaning. He was totally entranced.
On a Friday afternoon, a week later, while his mom was lying down, trying to recover from a headache, the temptation to look at that carburetor again was just too much for him. He went out to the garage very quietly, lifted the hood of the Model T just as quietly and removed the screws and brackets that were holding the carburetor in place. As carefully as if he were carrying diamonds he took it over to his dad’s workbench and began to take it apart. He painstakingly placed parts on an oily rag one by one, and was nearly done when a spring device rolled off the counter onto the floor. He raced after it but too late; it rolled down a large drain that had been installed in the center of the garage to make it easy to hose off the floor. Just as he was peering at it in horror, his big brother, who had just come home from school, opened the door from the kitchen and spotted him.
Skipping over some of the immediate horror with his brother and his mom, the major crisis came when his dad came home. There was no such thing as buying a part for this carburetor, as it was far too old. An antique car-parts dealer could supply the whole unit as a reconditioned model, but this meant several hundred dollars. The scariest thing, as his dad enumerated all this, was his eyes, which had narrowed to slits, and his very controlled tone. Calvin’s life was in ashes. He spent the entire weekend in his room until Sunday afternoon. His sister had arrived Friday night to spend a weekend with the family, and through his closed door he heard everyone in the family discussing him again and again in low, but ominous, tones. Finally, late Sunday afternoon he was called in for a family conference. With his entire family serving as judge and jury, he was sentenced to 100 hours of service intended to repay his father $300.00 at the rate of $3.00 per hour, said service to include yard work, trash hauling, dish duty, and occasional vacuuming. A precise schedule was set up that would provide for 10 hours of work per week. All family members pledged to oversee this to completion. And they did! Calvin found no wiggle room, with someone checking on each of his weekly hours. It was surely an INTP nightmare, and one he would not forget.
When it was over, the family held a coming-out party for him. His dad had decided that a serious carrot was needed along with the big stick they had forced on him. He had arranged for two things. First, he and Cal would build a gas-powered, off-road racer together from scratch. Second his mom, dad and brother agreed that they would take turns driving him each week to a terrific Saturday program for gifted junior scientists. With a lot of love and kindness they tried to find ways to help him do the things that filled his young heart with joy, while sternly reminding him that other people’s rules have to be respected. Calvin was well loved, and lucky in that. Beyond that his rather smart family saw clearly that he needed both discipline and help, and tried to give him that. While his natural disposition to follow his own “bliss” will always be with him, it is not likely that he will forget this lesson.
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