My 16-year-old does not tell me everything. I know, shocking, right?
The problem is that until a few months ago he really did tell me everything. I knew what all of his friends were doing (and who they were doing it with), I knew stories about all of his teachers and I knew all of his grades.
My friends told me I was lucky; they also told me that it wouldn’t last.
I would smile and shake my head. ‘No,’ I would tell them, ‘he will always tell me everything.’ And I would secretly savor the knowledge that I had a teenager who wanted to talk to his mom. All the while, my friends were savoring the knowledge that I was delusional.
This became very apparent last week at my younger son’s soccer game.
I was sitting with a woman who mentioned that our older children – her daughter and my oldest son – finally met each other at school.
“Did he talk to her or just grunt in her direction?” I asked because, as far as I knew, my somewhat neurotic 16-year-old didn’t speak to a lot of females.
“They talked for a while,” she said. “Apparently it took them some time to figure out how they knew each other’s names but they eventually put it together.”
That should have been my first clue.
I mentioned this exchange to my son when I got home and that’s when he dropped the next bomb: “Yea, I met her,” he said. “She knows Claudia, who I sit with at lunch.”
Claudia? He sits with girls at lunch!? I was so stunned that I asked him if he said “Claudio”.
“Claudio?” he snapped. “No. Claudia,” he practically spat at me.
I know that he knows girls. There was a time, not too long ago, when he and I were leaving one of his baseball games and a very cute blonde girl came bounding up to us and hugged him. Hugged him! Right in front of me!
I was shocked! Not that a girl would want to hug my son, but that he knew a girl well enough that she would hug him in public – and, more importantly, that I didn’t know her.
How is it possible that just a couple of months ago he was still sharing every detail of his life with me and now…he’s having lunch with a girl who I still want to call Claudio.
When your kids are little you know their entire world. Most of the time their world is your world. Even if you work full-time you know who the kids at the preschool are and who their parents are (usually because of the seemingly endless number of parent cocktail receptions and coffees for preschool and grammar school parents.) When they hit middle school and junior high you still get snippets of information about their friends because they need to talk about their social lives ALL THE TIME: “Jeremy is my best friend;” “You wouldn’t believe what Annie did today. She is so funny;” “John is such a prick;” (just kidding, that language comes later).
Eventually though, they meet some new kid on a sport’s team or at camp or worse, they go to a high school with 4000 students and you can no longer keep track of who they associate with. Next thing you know they are having lunch with Claudio, er, Claudia.
My mother-in-law likes to joke that her middle son didn’t talk to her during his four years of high school. Even though there are times when I would prefer that neither one of my kids talk to me – four years does seem like a long time.
What to do…
Well, let me tell you what not to do.
First, do not ask any questions. Teenagers will not answer questions—not even about the color of the sky. If they do offer you a sliver of information, Do Not Make Eye Contact. This will cause your teenager to sever all communication – possibly for four years.
I know these rules and yet, I couldn’t help myself.
That evening I was driving my son to his friend’s house and he was chattering away about nothing in particular. This is the perfect time, I reasoned, to throw in a question or two about his new “friend.” He was in a good mood and we were both facing forward (no eye contact, remember?).
Me: “So, who else sits with you at lunch?
Son: “You don’t know any of them.”
What?? There are more changes to his world that I don’t know about?!
Me (trying to contain my curiosity): “But I thought you sat with Tyler and Mark at lunch every day?”
We drew up to a stop sign and I looked straight at him. I just couldn’t help it.
Son: “What’s with all of the questions?” he demanded. “Why do you care?” And, with that, all communication ceased. Damn, I knew not to look him in the eyes.
Fast forward a few hours.
My son seemed to have forgotten about shutting me out after our earlier interrogation exchange and resumed communication with me. As much as I would have liked to pick up our conversation where we left off, I decide not to ask about lunch anymore.
He babbled on about computer games and homework assignments before heading up to bed.
“Oh,” he said as he climbed the stairs to his room. “Can you make sure that I’m up by 9:00? I’m going to breakfast with Mike and Marina tomorrow. Thanks!”
“Marina?” I call after him. Who’s Marina?
Maybe he said Marino…