Teenagers. One of the things I just can’t get used to is the fact that I have the wisdom of experience, and yet, my teenagers need to talk to their friends in order to work out their problems. Well, that’s the girl. I think the boy talks to no one. He talks, just not about the issues that really bother him…not about the things that are important. He buries those down deep and instead talks about video games and basketball and what’s new on Youtube. And when it all boils to the surface, he blows up in some way.
I have not mastered the art of having a meaningful conversation with a teenager. I may never get there. For now I cherish the nuggets of time when my kids will open up to me, just a little. I get to know their friends and their friends’ parents when that’s possible. I pay attention to the things that interest them, so I can join in the conversation. I love the carpool rides home from school. Those come with news from the perspective of other kids, and a whole pile of nonsense.
Recently, when I knew my son was really having trouble with something that he needed to work through, I picked him up at school. I brought his buddy home, and then we ran a number of errands. He hates doing that, but we really needed the talk time, so I captured him in the car. I made it seem like not a big deal. I asked some feeling questions. I know – guys hate feeling questions. But when you ask enough questions, and sometimes provide multiple choice answers, it helps. And sometimes it’s just useful to help a child understand that they’re not the first one to go down this road. I certainly didn’t have a perfect childhood.
My daughter is going through some serious stuff right now. I know the basics of it. But she wants to get the answers from her friends. And she’s searching for just the right friend who would have the perfect answer to make everything better. If she would talk to me about it, I would tell her that sometimes your friends don’t have the answers – so sometimes, maybe you just need to write it down. For me, journaling is the way I process things. Once I’ve written my way through a problem, sometimes it seems smaller. Sometimes I just have to get it out. I’m not saying she shouldn’t share. But sometimes she just wears people out with her stuff. Have you ever been in a situation where everybody wants to talk, and no one wants to listen? Frustration usually happens then. And that’s not just with teenagers. Sometimes I get off the phone with a friend and reflect that maybe I should have spent more time listening.
A few days ago my daughter and my niece were in the other room watching a movie together. I was in my office working, but I could hear them. I wasn’t eves dropping, but paying attention to their commentary about the movie. I don’t see this particular niece very often and just by listening to her, I was struck by how much she had grown up in such a short time…and by how smart she is. My daughter is a lot older than her cousin, and knew the girl was dealing with some family things. I listened as my daughter bonded with her over their mutual love of Les Miserables.
I try to be an approachable mom. Hopefully my kids feel comfortable confiding in me. And I don’t need to know every little thing. But if it’s important, I want to know. Because I want to help. If that’s what’s needed.