Today’s guest blogger is Angie Albright. I love her because she is funny and frank and because she and I are two of the few who have broken the covenant of people with “real” English degrees by venturing into blogging.
I am the mother of a 16-year-old boy. I’m not dead yet but my hair is getting grayer at a faster pace than it was two years ago. Parents moan and groan all the time about their days ahead of parenting teenagers, or sigh with relief at being done with it. I get that. I won’t deny that there was a minute or 90 when my son was 14 that I considered renegotiating my custody agreement with his dad, and I did recently post on Facebook that I was taking suggestions on good military academies in Siberia. I was serious.
But this kid is also really funny, wise, smart, and kind. He doesn’t get worked up about school like I did (which makes me a little crazy), but he works really hard at his job slinging pizzas at a local joint. He is nice to small children and old people, so I know he’ll turn out okay as an adult.
Our challenge these days is not so much the rebellion or the hormones, it’s communication. I’m willing to text, use smoke signals, or coded knocks on his closed bedroom door, whatever it takes for us to connect. None of these can give you a true report, however, on how school is going or what’s new with his friends. That requires face-to-face dialogue.
I’ve learned over the last couple of years (I had to learn fast because they grow so fast!) to be patient and wait. And wait. And wait. I ask questions, and when I get grunts or just “yeah” or “nah” I know I have to wait. Then one night he’ll bust through the door and fly in talking, and he won’t stop. Then I have to listen and get my information when he’s in that mood.
A great example is the night we were out for dinner recently (which is when I can get him to talk the most), and I asked about school. He raised his long arm to give me a high five over the table, and says in his best we’re-in-a-huddle-in-the-
Another great example is our text exchanges. We have almost the exact same exchange every day. Because he spends part of his week at his dad’s house, has his own car, has a full work schedule, and a terrible memory we have to communicate daily about what happens after school. This is how it goes:
Mom: Please call me after school
Mom: Because we need to go over the schedule
Mom: Because [insert good parental reason here]
Mom: BECAUSE I SAID SO AND I’M YOUR MOTHER AND I PAY FOR YOUR PHONE
I’m counting on, hoping, desperately praying that one day one of us will learn to ask the question differently and one of us will learn to answer it differently. Until then, we struggle on. I wait for the moment when he will spill his stories and hopes and fears, which he does from time to time, and while waiting I interpret grunts, gestures, the click of doors, “yeah” and “nah,” and shrugs.
I have no doubt that one day I’ll get a lot of the stories of things going on right now, just like my brother, sister, and I have done to my mom, and she’s happy, as I will be, that I didn’t know everything about my teenager in the moment.
Angie Albright is a mother, writer, and believe it or not, a professional communicator. She blogs at A Growing Season. You can also find her on twitter at @AGrowingSeason.