Conversations with my Son

Lately talks with the boy mostly go like this:

“OK, you’re going to wait here until it’s safe to continue through the intersection … You can turn when it’s clear. OK, slow down. SLOW! DOWN!”

Yes, he’s learning to drive. Well, I guess I can’t say “learning” because he is a teenager, so he knows everything. Every. Little. Thing.

Even though on occasion his actions indicate the opposite.

Like every parent — at least I’m guessing every parent worries about this — I’m trying to do my best to grow a good human but sometimes I wonder how much sifts through. It’s hard to offer nuggets of life advice without sounding like a nag. I’ll overhear snippets of conversation where he’s mercilessly mocking a friend and I realize this is just how this particular group of teenage boys communicates. But at the same time, I’m assuming some segment of that demographic might not appreciate such  teasing. I would have hated that when I was a teenager. I’d hate it now. Maybe that’s just a girl thing. So, I’ll gently remind him to read the room and know his audience because you can’t talk this way with every kid.

It’s getting more common to hear four-letter words slip from his mouth when he’s playing his fave video game du jour online with his peeps. Which is fine. But he’s also been told that you talk one way with friends and another with adults and never the twain shall meet.

I feel like my husband and I have done a fairly good job of making all of our offspring open-minded and kind and considerate of others. Have we succeeded? This summer, I got actual confirmation. 

No. 3 was getting his first haircut — well, professional one anyway and not me shearing him like a sheep and accidentally getting carried away in a few spots — since life changed drastically in March. The kid’s got a lot of hair, and it grows fast. So, we drove to the barbershop. I handed him my credit card and waited in the car. 

He finally emerged, but only after I’d dropped 10 pounds from sweating outside in triple-digit August heat.

“So were you able to use the credit card no problem?” I asked.

“Yeah, it was fine,” he said.

“How much of a tip did you leave?” I asked.

“Uh, $10. I think he charged me $20, which seemed less than usual,” he said.

“Wow, that was a nice tip.”

“Well, it was the older guy who cut my hair, and I felt like because he’s in a high-risk group and he has to work that he should get more.”

And then we had to clean off goo on the car’s windshield because my heart exploded right out of my chest and splatted all over everything.

He may be forgetful and sloppy but he’s a good kid, so I’ll take that any day over remembering to clear his piles of clean clothes out of the laundry room. Although, honestly, this shouldn’t be an either or situation.

He made my heart soar again the other night.

Over the summer, I’d told my husband that it hurt my feelings a bit that No. 3 — who’s never been a reader unless it was shoe specs on the Nike website — didn’t express any interest in reading “That.”

“Make him read it,” he shrugged.

“No,” I protested. “I don’t want to do that. I want him to read it because he wants to read it.”

In strict contrast, No. 1 not only ordered a copy for herself but sent a picture of it on her lap at the beach in California and later texted a nice review*.

So last night while tidying up the kitchen after dinner, No. 3 slapped a review copy of “That.” on the kitchen counter.

“Show me your left wrist,” he demanded. 

I raised it, inside turned out, so he could see the now year-old tattoo he’d never noticed but that I had written about.

“So, now you know,” I smirked.

“Well, your Fitbit hides it.”

I raised my wrist again to prove it was still visible, with the watch on.

“Uh, not really. You never noticed,” I teased. “So, you read ‘That.’”

“I couldn’t find the real copies, so I had to get it from the storage room.”

This, to me, was the most surprising part and maybe what made me happiest because he really had to rummage around in there and work to find a proof — and this is the kid who can’t find the 22-gallon jar of mayo front and center in the fridge.

“When did you read it?” I asked. 

“This week, between classes. It was a quick read.”

“And …?”

“It connected a lot of dots.”

End scene. Or “and scene,” whatever that expression is.

I’m guessing a third book might really be pushing it. So perhaps I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

*The Force is strong in this one.

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