If I could think of a way to get my 9-year-old son to actually open a window into his brain and share some of what’s inside with the rest of the world, or, say, the people who love him, or even those of us who happen to live in the same house, I would bottle that process and sell it and make a zillion dollars.
So far, that miracle method has eluded me, so I pepper him with questions.
“How was your day?” gets nothing.
“Good,” he mumbles.
Even if the school cafeteria served star-shaped chicken nuggets (ick, but his favorite), they had a 3-hour recess and the Ravens quarterback signed autographs while the school gym burned down, I’d get the same response.
At some point, I barked, “‘Good’ is no longer an acceptable answer!”
It’s like what it took all of second grade to pound into Eddie’s head: give a topic sentence and then some supporting details. It’s not like every conversation needs to come in the form of a short essay, but ya gotta corral your thoughts and share them in some way that connects you to the rest of the world.
Open-ended questions elicited blank stares, and yes-or-no questions somehow got an answer of “Good.”
I developed a cross between the Spanish Inquisition and a choose-your-own adventure novel.
“Did you have art today or music?”
“Did you sit next to Peter or Luke?”
“Was your teacher in a good mood or grouchy?”
My hope was that it would eventually trigger release of some whisker of a detail, which might lead to an actual conversation. There’s a new kid in the class, I don’t like what we’re reading, we’re starting bowling or ping-pong in gym class. Whatever. Anything! Just give me a hint! Usually whatever comment I would elicit would have to do with something that happened three days ago. Or last year. And usually having to do with some stupid video game.
I know that brain of his is working, just not on my timetable.
When my Lovely Bride’s coworkers when they went out for drinks recently, one woman I met has two teenage sons. I latched on to this woman like white on rice. Eddie and I had been battling that day, and I unloaded it all on her and made her my therapist. Her boys fix their own lunches and do their own laundry. Her mission as their mother, she said, was to equip them with life skills. That and a sense of embarrassment and horror at the prospect of moving back in with mom after they finish college. Right on, sister!
Finally she asked me, why all the questions? How about for three days not asking him anything at all? Maybe he’ll start talking.
I told her I’m not sure I could do that.
I’m such a perfectionist/defeatist that I immediately put up obstacles in the form of even more questions.
Does that mean I don’t ask him if he wants to invite a friend over to play? Does he know where his shoes are? Did he make his bed? Take a bath or shower? Want to go to the library or pool? Prefer peas or green beans?
This week, Eddie is going to a half-day “Lego Stop-Action Moviemaking” camp at the local community college, and I’ve decided to apply the silent treatment to this one thing. He seemed pretty fired up when I dropped him off on the first day, so you’d think something that exciting would trigger some type of voluntary comment.
You’d be wrong.
I want to ask, who’s your partner? What’s your movie about? Do you need to bring a video camera? What’s your counselor like? Is it fun? How many kids are in the class? Is the room hot or cold?
But I’m not.
And it’s killing me.
P.S. He did volunteer that he got a cinnamon roll for morning snack with the dollar I gave him.