It’s not an out-of-body experience, exactly. But I swear – REALLY – I can morph myself into a 16-year old. Sort of.
Yeah, yeah, sure, sure you’re saying to yourself. A 16-year old boy?
OK. I admit that’s more difficult, but I can remember what it was like to be that age. Besides, I have special powers. And I can even tell you when they started – my telepathy and teleporting skills, that is. I was 24, sitting at a little outdoor café, captivated by a flagrant flirtation with a hot French guy over a pair of frothy cappuccinos. He was tall, sexy, and knew exactly what he wanted. And for an instant, impressed by that savoir-faire, I imagined myself inside him, inside his body, his mind, with his experience and holding the cards in directing our encounter-in-process.
Recreating the teleporting tactic
I never forgot that moment; I felt bigger and more powerful, and I also saw myself from the outside looking in… What a different view it is!
That’s when I realized I could zap my psyche inside anyone I wanted if I tried hard enough. Well, almost anyone. But it’s a talent that has come in verrrrry handy over the years, and particularly, raising kids. Some call it empathy, but I think it’s more than that. Empathy Plus, perhaps. And let me say, it’s now being called upon daily, thanks to my 16-year old.
What do you do when your kid won’t talk?
Sometimes kids won’t talk – not to a parent anyway. You can ease a bit of info out of them if you’re patient, but otherwise, you learn to recognize the importance of timing.
If I know I need certain “data” like a location or a name, I persist until I get it. If not, I “zap” myself inside my son’s head, feeling the swirl of emotions, worries, and distractions. That’s when I realize I may not be privy to the details, but there’s a whole lot going on in there, and the last thing he wants is more conversation!
What do you when your kid doesn’t want you to talk?
This one sounds simple, but it’s not! And it happens time and time again, especially in the morning. I didn’t used to be a morning person. I was quiet, preoccupied, sullen, half-asleep, writing in my head, or planning out my day. Wait! That sounds like my teenager!
Shit. Is there a sullen-in-the-morning gene?
I admit, these days I’m up early, caffeinated quickly, and writing immediately. If it’s a day we drive to school together, by the time we’re on the road, I’m talking – reminding my son of things he has to do (he’s rolling his eyes), asking if he’s forgotten his key (he’s rolling his eyes), his wallet (rolling the eyes), his lunch (exasperated sigh), his phone (eyebrows go up, face begins to contort). OMG. It’s about to happen again!
Somewhere along the 12-minute route he turns to me and spits out: Mom, I know!
Sometimes parents just need to shut up
So here’s the usual drill: I’ve just rattled off the day’s schedule and “don’t forgets,” I see the look on his face, and then I mutter: Sorry. I’ll shut up now. Then I shut up, annoyed at myself that I forgot to shut up. Again.
Since my teen teleporting talents aren’t optimized at 8 a.m., apparently I need to remind myself to shut up but not say it aloud! Yesterday, as this scenario played out again (mea culpa, mea culpa), following my I’ll shut up now my son said: Mom, please don’t say that. It makes me feel like an asshole.
Huh? Time for a Useful Exchange.
And I thought I remembered what it felt like to be 16? Wrong. I was saying “I’ll shut up” to affirm that I was overly chatty and that I’d stop. But my remark made him feel guilty, like he was unappreciative of the ride or should be engaging me in conversation. It never occurred to me he felt that way.
And there it was. A Useful Exchange. We were speaking the same language, at last. For a moment, anyway! Obviously, I need to do a better job of recalling the 16-zone, and giving my kid the space of his morning quiet. I’m resolved to do better. And practice my mind-inhabiting-zapping-empathy skills.
Anyone know a tall twenty-something Frenchman I could meet for coffee, as a little extra motivation?