I’ve been challenged in recent weeks to persist in talking with my son. My impression has been that he’s pretty quiet, and he is.
When I started paying attention, though, I realized how often he talks and I’m not particularly interested. It’s not that I don’t care about snakes, birds, and electronics; however, I’m looking for conversation about serious things– what he thinks about, what he’s looking forward to, what he’s afraid of. I want to hear what God is stirring in his heart. Those things I don’t hear very often. He’s very private, and when pressed, he shrugs and answers “nothing” or “I don’t know.” I seem to vacillate between worry and apathy about the matter. Neither approach is satisfying or effective. God used a conversation with my neighbor to give me some insight into my own response to my children’s conversation styles.
My next door neighbor loves to talk. As we chatted over our fence on morning, she mentioned that she carpools with another mom, so she has opportunity to talk with some teenage boys on a regular basis. She said “I have a boy. I just keep asking, just keep pressing for answers.” It struck me that her success at developing relationships has to do more with her persistence than any particular skill at conversation. It was helpful for me to hear her matter-of-fact acknowledgment that conversation with a teenage boy requires work.(Don’t know why that’s a surprise– communication in marriage is work, too, and Lee and I both have to work at it.)
So, God has been challenging me that one way I can love my son is not to give up developing a relationship with him. I don’t want him growing up thinking that a healthy relationship is simply existing side by side. Love talks and is transparent. But what can I do? Simply yelling “TALK TO ME!” probably won’t be effective.
Here are some conclusions I’m drawing:
- I need to adjust to his conversation style. He doesn’t talk like a teenager, and I can’t ignore him while I’m waiting for his conversation skill to develop. I need to be thankful for both what we talk about and also how long (or short) the conversations are. I need to remember that God created him, and that his personality under the Holy Spirit’s control will be just right.
- I need to take the time to talk. All of my children approach me some of the time, but I need to be drawing them in. I must not get discouraged or assume that they’ll talk with me when they have something to say.
- I need to be interested in WHATEVER he volunteers. Why would he offer information about something personal if I’m indifferent to the mundane? This has been my biggest challenge. I’ve been working at making eye contact and asking questions when he offers up information.
- I must not grow weary in working on developing a relationship with him. I’ve watched teenagers talk, hungry for adult attention, hungry to be taken seriously, hungry for personal connection. And I’ve watched parents do as I do– brush off their comments as unimportant because they’re not of a spiritual nature.
- I must remember that a single comment stays in his mind for a long time. This morning, I listened as David read a book to Laurel. From time to time, David stopped and explained something to his sister. He asked his sister to count the legs on an illustration of a ladybug. He pointed out the two sets of wings. He explained a difficult word. I mentioned that I liked how he took the time to teach his sister, and that he was good at it. He went on reading without a response. But later, he asked me, “Do you think I should be a teacher when I grow up?” That exchange was a gift from God, especially because the time gap between my comment and his was fairly long, and it showed me how a single comment can penetrate immediately and deeply.