My son dances around the subject, again

Rob appeared about 12:40 a.m., some 20 minutes after the midwife had announced that we'd see the baby come with the dawn. That should have been a hint to me that this child approached life in his own way, on his own terms.

We already had a daughter, who even at age 4 was proving to be a marvelous companion. She loved to talk, and talk we did, about everything under the sun. So, as Rob grew, I naively expected conversation would continue with him as it had with her.

I soon learned that talk, at least with his mom, was not one of Rob's strong points. Let me give you an example. Rob comes home from school. I say, "How was school today?"

He answers, "Fine."

"What happened?" I say. "What did you do all day? How are your friends? Who's doing what?"

His responses (in order): "Nothing. Nothing. Fine. No one." End of conversation from his point of view. But not mine.

I persist. "What'd you do in class? What are the kids talking about in the halls between classes?" This last question generates not only another "nothing," but also a look that says, "I can't believe you asked me that."

Sometimes, I optimistically try to ask about one of his friends by name, thinking this will elicit a response. But you know what? Friend, classmate, teacher, all are "fine." That's it. End of discussion.

Most times I give up at this point, but sometimes I'm determined to get if not a conversation, at least a sentence or two from him. So I'll persist.

"Do you really expect me to believe that nothing at all happened in class today? Didn't the teachers teach anything or say or do anything?"

I sit back, confident that this time I have bested him and some fact or other will be forthcoming.. In my more innocent days, when I hadn't yet realized how different boys were from girls in the area of communication, I'd be looking for interesting information. Now I'll settle for any scrap with which he deigns to reward me.

Again, you have to remember, his older sibling is a girl who would burst into the house with statements like, "Mom, you won't believe what happened today!" or "You'll never guess what Mrs. so-and-so did to her hair!"

But, alas, all I end up with is an exasperated, "Mom, nothing happened today. Deal with it."

And then he smiles his wonderful smile at me, heads off to the computer or the TV, and I forgive him all.

Where it has become hardest to forgive him for the lack of information is when he goes to a social event. His first semiformal dance as a high school freshman is a case in point.

In preparation for homecoming, we shopped for a suit, shirt, and tie; ordered flowers for his date; and got him a haircut.

And, I bought two disposable cameras: one for the pictures we would take, and the other (I felt so clever!) for him to take to the dance and photograph the girls I had known since they were in kindergarten so I could see what their dresses looked like, how their hair was done, etc.

I thought the plan was foolproof. I couldn't wait until the next day when I retrieved the camera from his suit pocket (Yes! He remembered to bring it home!) and took it to the drugstore, paying extra for fast development.

When the pictures came back, there were only four images. Two were of the salt shakers on the dinner table and two of the underside of the table. I kid you not.

"What happened?" I said to him.

"Ben and I thought it would be fun to take those shots," he explained.

"But what about the girls and their dresses?" I exclaimed.

"Just call one of them. They'll tell you everything you want to know," he assured me, as off to the computer he went.

I hadn't gotten to see his date for the latest dance. Over breakfast next morning, I decided to be firm.

"Rob," I said, "no sports section until you tell me about the dance."

"What do you want to know?" he asked warily, masking a sigh.

"Everything," I said.

"Like what?" said he.

"What was Kelly's dress like? How did she wear her hair? What did the girl you doubled with wear? How was her hair done?" I was really getting into it.

"Are you serious?" Rob said. "The dress and hair of the girl who wasn't even my date?"

"Yes," I continued firmly, "and I want to know what you did at the dance. What was the theme? How was the place decorated? What you did afterward? Everything," I emphasized.

Can you guess what I found out before he found the sports section? His date wore a long blue dress and her hair was "up."

Was anyone out there at this particular dance? If so, could you please call me?

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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