It’s 9:55 P.M. A lover of sleep, what I want to do right now is curl up in bed with my hubby and watch an episode of M*A*S*H on Netflix while I fall asleep on his shoulder.
Instead, I flip to Chapter 33 and start reading Unbroken (a book about an Air Force lieutenant in World War II). It’s just me and my two middle school boys in these final moments of the day. And though my body longs for sleep, my heart is full.
In this last half hour of the night, I scratch the backs of my ever-growing boys, and then we read. Together we enter a different world. Sometimes it’s fantasy. Sometimes it’s history. Sometimes it’s biography. And sometimes after we return from the book’s world, the boys invite me into their worlds, sharing their thoughts and dreams. Though these times are rare, it’s taken me a lot of work and learning to get to this point.
Here are a few key elements I’ve found to be necessary in order to successfully communicate with my sons.
1. Don’t Push
My sons’ worlds are not open to me all the time. In fact, more often than not, their thought lives do not welcome a visit from Mom.
In their early elementary years, this seriously bothered me. To counter it, I pummeled them with questions on the ride home from school each day: “How was your day? Who’d you play with at recess? How’d your spelling test go? Did you eat all your lunch?”
Their grunts and two-word responses didn’t satisfy my need for information, and my barrage of questions annoyed my boys. After completing seven long hours of school, the last thing they wanted to do was talk about it.
I had to back off.
So I continue to pick them up from school each day, just as I have since the first day of kindergarten, but now it isn’t uncommon for us to ride home in silence. Some people decompress by talking it out; my boys decompress in their heads. Once I figured out that my attempts at pushing myself into their thought worlds would never be successful, I decided to take a different route.
2. Show an Interest in Their Interests
Instead of focusing on getting all the details of their lives that I so desperately wanted to know, I started showing interest in the things my boys care about. Early on that meant kicking the soccer ball back and forth a million times in the yard. Now it’s more about understanding video games, learning the names of NBA players, and watching Dude Perfect clips on YouTube.