Friday's child

28th May 1999 at 01:00
Reva Klein on what it's like to airhead

He looks for the life of him as if he's just sauntered out of a Norman Rockwell painting circa 1999. Hair tousled, shirt on back-to-front, jacket on inside-out, shoelaces that have never been touched by human hand, socks of contrasting colours, chomping on a piece of toast he grabbed off his breakfast plate on the way out of the door, always at least three minutes late. There's one in every class. Meet Sam, the most disorganised boy in Year 7.

Sweet of nature, fair of countenance, bright of intellect, he is a pre-pubescent nutty professor in the making, always in a shambolic state. The boy can't help it. No matter how hard he tries, he's always forgetting to bring in a book or a piece of homework or his pencil case or a signed permission form from his parents. When asked for whatever it is by his teachers, he'll bang the side of his head with his hand and say "oh no!" with genuine chagrin tinged with something that can only be described as resignation. Although he doesn't say it, he's thinking - as are his teachers and his long-suffering but slightly amused classmates - "not again!" If anyone is going to lose something on a class trip involving even just a short bus ride to and from a museum, it's Sam. How many times has he had to cadge bits of sandwich and the odd crisp off other kids because he left his backpack at the bus stop after putting it down to make friends with a passing dog or inspect a grounded butterfly? How many times has he had to borrow money from a classmate because he forgot to bring his bus fare?

Or had to ring a friend at 9.30 the night before homework is due to ask what the assignment is because he can't find his homework book? Or has had his head of year remark that it was a shame his parents didn't come to parents' evening the night before, when they didn't come because he lost the letter announcing it somewhere in the bottom of that backpack.

His parents have become used to Sam's flakeyness. They know there's nothing wrong with his cognitive abilities because he consistently gets high marks on his SATs and teachers tell them (on the occasions when they're actually notified of parents' evenings, usually through friends) how much they value his contributions to classroom discussions.

They also know that although he's eccentric, he has many friends. He has a vague sense of fashion dos and don'ts, which is a prerequisite for social acceptability on any level. And girls like to mother him because he's such a mess and because he's so devoid of the artifice that is an affliction of early adolescence. As for teachers, the truth is that as time goes on they may become exasperated with his air-headedness. But while he's still young and sweet he's forgiven his trespasses because his brain clearly works, even if in mysterious ways.

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