Sunday, November 23, 2008

How to annihilate a child's dreams in one easy step

In the car a couple nights ago Youngest was making me crazy. It had been a long day with him. We were coming back from Aikido, he was chatty, I was tired and couldn't listen any longer to the constant prattling of a 13 year old who is half little boy and half teenager.

He flipped through radio stations as he droned on and on about one thing and another. One local station is already playing continuous Christmas songs and as Youngest accidentally stumbled over it I recognized the beginning of Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne."

"Oooh, I used to love this song," I mentioned, "I'd like to listen to it, please." Translation: Please, please, please shut it so I can enjoy this song.

He was quiet for at least 10 seconds and then started in again. He talked about small things at first--things I could easily dispatch with an intuitively placed "uh huh." But then he got more detailed. Something to do with a boat he wants to build for fishing at church camp next summer when his grandparents take him.

I completely lost my patience. As well as all sense of consideration. "Look, Youngest, first of all, you manage to catch plenty of fish at camp without a boat. Secondly, you know for a fact that Grandpa isn't going to let you drag along anything heavy that will cut down on his fuel efficiency. Third--didn't I tell you I wanted to listen to this song? Why have you talked all the way through it????"

Youngest didn't answer. Youngest was crushed. And he did something that I remember doing probably a thousand times when I was an emotional young teenager in the car with my mother: he turned his whole body toward his window and ignored me for the rest of the drive home.

I felt guilty. And I felt relief at the quiet.

I tried to remember what it was I wanted my mom to know, and what action I wanted her to take, from my body language when I was Youngest's age. But part of me just didn't effing care--as I'm sure my mom didn't--because in truth there is no rational thought--no perspective--in the case of an injured 13 year old.

And then it occurred to me that the bittersweet song on the radio--an accurate depiction of the pensive reality that is meeting someone who you loved in the distant past--would never hold the same meaning for my son as it holds for me. For him it would be a bad memory of a car ride with his killjoy mother.

And one more family experiences the generation gap . . .


Whitenoise said...

I've done things like that. And, I've gone back and said "listen, buddy, I make mistakes, too. I accidently hurt people's feelings and I didn't mean to hurt yours. I'm sorry."

I think being an example who makes and acknowledges his own mistakes is far better than being some impossible standard of perfection. I think it makes you human to your kid and helps them to learn and grow.

But that's just me...

Anonymous said...

you took all the joy out of christmas :)

Mary said...

Oh dear God, can I relate to this.

Susannah talks *all the time*. Everywhere. Any space. About anything. Did I say it was all the time? There's only so much you can stand and I think it's a vital lesson in communication and social interaction for the children to learn that every single nuance of a situation is not worthy of excessive, detailed conversation.

Well . . . except when you're having a "discussion" with your husband. It's clear that a dissection of minutia and an exhaustive discussion of said minutia is vitally necessary at that jucture.

This age is a tough one and we're expected to be "on" all the time for them. You're human. We can't be everything to everyone all the time. We can try and, like Whitenoise says, mea culpa it when we screw up royally, but ultimately I think we do the best we can. Certainly your three are terrific kids. You and your husband must have done something right. : )

Tink said...

I have that CD...I love Dan Fogelberg and jsyk I am going to ask my adult kids at dinner on Thursday if any of them have a sour memory of a car ride with me...the answers will be no doubt be a big fat YES!

countrymouse said...

Oh sure, WN, take the high road and make me feel like a heel : ) Actually, I did apologize to him. Well, I half apologized : )

Yes, Beautiful, my work here is done!

Mary--I *totally* thought of you during that whole episode : ) And minutae discussing with husbands? Isn't that what they're there for?

Oh dear Tink, now *that* is going to be some fun dinner conversation!