The thing I find most disconcerting about being the parent of a teenage boy is our sudden inability to communicate with each other in any sort of meaningful way. Last night, for example, we had this heart to heart exchange:
“How was school today?”
“What did you do?”
“Science, Math, History…”
“But I mean, what did you actually do? For example, what did you do in Science today?”
“We wrote things down on paper.”
“What KINDS of things? What are you learning about?”
“What living things are.”
Overnight, he’s become a covert CIA operative, trained to take his highly-classified top secrets about what he did in Biology class to the grave.
He recently spent a week away in Vermont with his friend’s family. Having had so little contact with him when he spent a week away at the beach earlier in the summer, I laid down some rules before he left for this second trip.
“Keep your phone charged. I expect you to make contact with us at least twice a day. Once by text and once by calling home.”
The boy kept his phone charged, but never once followed through on the making contact part. On the days that I didn’t initiate contact myself, I didn’t hear from him at all. When I did hear from him, our conversations were entirely unsatisfactory:
The week he was in Vermont, one of his closest friends, who moved away a few years ago, happened to be visiting Charlottesville with his family. The rest of us went to meet up with them for frozen yogurt one evening. Shortly before setting out, I tried and failed to contact my son. I knew he should be arriving in Vermont after two days of travel, and I wanted both to make sure that he’d arrived safely and to give him a chance to talk to his friend over the phone. The first time I called, I could tell he picked up the phone and hung up on me. When I called him a second time just moments later, he didn’t even bother to pick up.
You can bet my panties were in a twist…
I resorted to texting the boy:
Oh really? He “couldb’t” spare two minutes to talk to the woman who was responsible for his existence on this planet? It was time to pull out the oldest trick in the book…the old bait and switch.
How to convey to you how I felt when he agreed to talk to his friend with such alacrity? So many emotions…a whole gallery of feels:
There just HAD to be a reason that he spurned me, but was now perfectly happy to talk to his friend…I mean: a reason other than the fact that I’m his mother and had been neurotically stalking him all the way to Vermont. I just had to get to the bottom of this mystery:
It seemed as if there was no way the poor boy could wriggle his way out of this one. And then he texted the magic words that cleared up everything. The sun shone again, a rainbow arched across the blue, blue sky, the birds started singing their sweet songs, and all was right with the world:
Of course! I giggled, giddy with relief and explained to my husband that the reason our dearly beloved firstborn hadn’t wanted to talk to me was that he’d been sitting on the toilet!
My husband very gently suggested an alternative explanation, generously assigning his hypothesis no more validity than my own conclusion: “Ooooor, is it possible that he was helping unload suitcases from the car?”
Ummm, yeah, OK, whatever. But the point is: all of this Stürm und Drang could have been so easily averted with a little communication.