Building Blocks of a Family
The short story Teenage Wasteland by Anne Tyler is a revealing story about the trials of a mother and her son. Donny is what is known as a problem child, and Daisy cannot to seem to figure out what his problem is. Through many attempts she tries to reach to him through counselors, and outside help. This story reveals a lack of communication, feelings of inadequacy, and lack of parental control.
Daisy reminisces on what Donny used to look like. He used to have blond hair -almost white- cut shorter than the other children’s so that on his crown a little cowlick always stood up to catch the light (Schwiebert 286). Times changed, and so did Donny. As he grew older, his hair grew darker, and he wore it longer – past his collar even (Schwiebert 286). Danny is having some problems at school. It seems that he does not concentrate, or put forth the right amount of effort. Daisy learns from Donny’s principal that Donny was noisy, lazy, and disruptive (Schwiebert 287). Daisy explains to the principal that her and her husband, Matt, have tried what they can. We don’t let him watch TV on school nights. We don’t let him talk on the phone till he’s finished his
homework. But he tells us that he doesn’t have any homework or he did it all in study hall. How are we to know what to believe? (Schwiebert 287) The principal gives Daisy the idea to check his assignments everyday. This wears down on Daisy and she becomes less involved in her daughter’s life, and short towards her husband. By the time her husband, Matt, came home, she’d be snappish. She would recite the day’s hardships Matt would look surprised and confused, and Daisy would gradually wind down. There was no way, really, to convey how exhausting all this was. (Schwiebert 287) The lines of communication were broken. People were frustrated, and couldn’t express themselves the way they should have. Especially Donny. In December, the school called again. This time they wanted Matt to come as well. (Schwiebert 287)
Donny had run into more trouble. He had cut classes on at least three occasions. Smoked in the furnace room. Helped Sonny Barnett break into a freshman’s locker. And last week, during athletics, he and three friends had been seen off school grounds; when they returned, the coach had smelled beer on their breath. (Schwiebert 287) Had anything that Daisy was doing getting through to him? Was it her fault? Had she really done all that she could have? She longed – she ached – for a time machine. Given one more chance, she’d do it perfectly (Schwiebert 288) Daisy felt useless. She carried all the blame, and thought that she was the reason for Donny’s downfall. Maybe if she had done things differently, it wouldn’t be this way. It was arranged that Donny would visit a psychologist for testing. Daisy felt beaten.
The psychologist said Donny had no serious emotional problems. He was merely going through a difficult period in his life. He required some academic help and a better sense of self-worth. The psychologist recommended Calvin Beadle, a tutor with considerable psychological training. (Schwiebert 288) Cal’s presence is welcomed at first. Just look at Donny’s face when they picked him up: alight and full of interest. (Schwiebert 289) Slowly he begins maneuvering into the aspects of Donny’s life. The tutor had set down so many rules! They were not allowed any questions at all about any aspect of school, nor were they to speak with his teachers. (Schwiebert 290) Cal was eliminating them from Donny’s life. Daisy did not notice this until she received a concerned phone call from one of Donny’s teachers. The teacher explained that Donny’s grades were not getting any better since the tutor, and that hey were better when she was involved with his homework. When Daisy explains to her that that the tutor handles these things now, the teacher replies, ‘I always deal directly with that parents. You are the parent,’ Miss Evans said slowly and distinctly. (Scwiebert 290) As Donny spends more time with Cal, the problems seem to increase. Then one day Daisy receives a call that Donny has been expelled from school due to some contents that were found in his locker. Instead of heading home, Donny finds his way to Cal’s. Daisy has now lost control of her son. Donny no longer takes her seriously, or sees her as a parental figure. Eventually, Daisy and Matt remove Donny from Cal’s tutoring, and send him to a public school. This breaks off any control that they might have had left.
After everything, Donny runs away. The first week in June, during final exams, Donny vanished. The cops told Daisy that if Donny wanted to come that he would. Evidently, Donny didn’t want to. (Schwiebert 292) Which one of the building blocks feel through? Which one was not there to keep Donny there? At night, daisy lies awake and goes over Donny’s life. She is trying to figure out what went wrong, where they made their first mistake.(Schwiebert 294)