Family Dynamics

We spend a lot of time in introspection in the Katz household. Something we hit on recently was the “circle of meanness.” I’m meanest to Robbie who is meanest to Joey who is meanest to Nate. Nate, of course, is meanest to me. (Karen has no place in this circle; she’s nice to everyone).


It’s interesting to analyze this. For years, Nate was horrible to Robbie – biting him, pushing him. The screams of little Robbie still resound in my head. Part of that must be normal first born to second born, made worse by Nate’s inability to communicate his frustrations and hyper-ability to use his teeth as a weapon.  Yet Robbie grew to be pretty kind to Nate, even though Nate calls him “Patrick” with regularity, as in Patrick Star from SpongeBob Squarepants. Why? “Because Robbie is an ass,” Nate will tell you. Despite that, Rob and his girlfriend gladly took Nate with them this summer when they went shopping or out to lunch.

So, why is Joey meanest to Nate? He’s not that mean, really, just impatient and short of temper. Joey tends to be impatient with most things, so perhaps his attitude toward his biggest brother is nothing special. Maybe it’s because by the time Joey came along, five years after Nate and well into Nate’s diagnosis and therapy, Nate’s “issues” were less important than the mere fact that he was part of the gang, with his own peculiarities, just like everyone else. In that way, Joey grew up with less sensitivity to Nate’s “syndrome” than Robbie. He’s just an annoying pain to Joey, plain and simple, with nothing to do with autism. That’s the best I can come up with.

Why is Nate meanest to me? Well, that’s the most obvious. I’ve always been the one to demand the most from him and not back away when he pitched a fit about it. It was worth it though. I see that in his successes, but it does lead to Nate walking around the house calling me a “dimwit” and an “asshole.” It’s a pretty small price to pay for getting where we are today.


About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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