Less is more.
It’s something we always told our son Beckett, a talkative, live wire type, when he was in day care and elementary school. He was routinely in hot water for behavior related to talking too much about unrelated topics to the matter at hand as well as interrupting naptime at day care or the class at school. When he had something to say, he had no filter and had to get it out. It was a major effort to get his impulsivity under control.
Nowadays, at the tween age of 12 years old, he’s different. While he can certainly get on some fast-talking rants, especially when he’s making excuses as to why he forgot to do his homework, he’s typically more reserved now. He’s clearly maturing. It’s quite an adjustment for us. It seems we went from one extreme to the other. I preferred the talkative days because at least what was on his mind was known.
I was thinking about this dichotomy during some idle time last weekend as I sat in a movie theater parking lot at 9 p.m. waiting for my son to come out with friends. Since I knew it would just be us on the ride home from north Ocean City, I put together a playlist of about six of his favorite songs for the way home.
There would be no peppering him with questions about the movie or what kind of junk he bought to eat and drink during it. I made sure he had a good time, but in short order he buried his head in his phone.
I have come to learn it’s best not to ask too many questions. I want to show interest, but he’s not one to rehash everything immediately and maybe not at all in some instances. Pam and I are rolling with it while trying to maintain the proper level of engagement. The fact is he has reached the age he prefers his friends over family. He finds us to be intrusive and overbearing at times, while we think we are just being his parents and taking an active interest in his life. We are maintaining some thick skin during this journey and embracing the good.
One such time would be last weekend on the way home from the movies. I could tell immediately he was not in the sharing mood, so I pumped up the music before we even left the parking lot. About the second song I realized he was enjoying the music.
We sang together while he played on his phone. At one point I muted a song to tell him to look out the window at the moon. He did reluctantly, but I read his body language — just let the music play man. I did just that, and we sang together as we did on drives to and from karate classes when he was 7. As we pulled into the house, we even sat in the vehicle and finished listening to a song – “Circles” by Post Malone (beats Laurie Berkner’s “We Are The Dinosaurs” in my opinion). I enjoyed the extra few minutes because I knew we would be going our separate ways as soon as we walked into the house.
It appears we have reached a stage in our relationship that I recall a friend mentioning once with his son. He drove his son to school in Berlin each morning from Rehoboth Beach. I remarked it was probably a good time to catch up on everything. He said, “well more often he doesn’t say a word to or from.” The silence seemed implausible to me at that time with my son in elementary school and quite loquacious at the time.
It’s true the father-son relationship and mother-son dynamics are changing tremendously of late. We must relish the positive moments while realizing he’s changing before our eyes. Long gone are the days of blindside hugs, giggles at bath time and run-on sentences about his day that make you wonder when breathing is occurring. It’s fine, but it’s tough. I don’t necessarily wish it was like when he was 5 years old. There were significant challenges then. The obstacles are just different now.
There were times when he frustrated us, especially when the teacher called to tell us he flushed a pair of underwear down a toilet at school. There were many questions for him, including whose underwear it was anyway (he didn’t know for what it’s worth). Similar feelings of angst arise these days. The emotions associated are more complicated, however. The questions without answers remain but they are more confusing at times and always on a deeper level. When it comes to emotions and feelings, the talks get heavy. He despises deep and complicated conversations. He avoids them at all costs now. He wants to keep everything light.
As his parent, we want him to stay a kid a bit longer. We don’t want him to deal with the drama and complications associated with young friendships and social interactions. We have been dealing with a lot of these difficult issues lately.
In the grand scheme of things, the good news all is well with our 12-year-old. What we are going through is normal. He gets As and Bs at a challenging school. He is a well-round kid who enjoys all the things he should, but abhors homework taking him away from skateboarding and playing sports with friends.
We worry, but stay engaged. It’s parenting right now. As we weave through this journey, we will celebrate the great moments. For me, a 20-minute drive from a movie theater listening to him sing songs I would never be enjoying otherwise is worthy of remembering. After all, I have found when I reflect on previous parenting experiences the psyche has a way of toning down the negatives and building up the positives. I am thankful for that.