Mom writes her lectures in letters

The other day I wrote my son a lon leter, signed it with love and kisses, and sent it on its way. Thirty seconds later it reached its destination: his bulletin board.

At our house this communication method was like rediscovering the wheel.

How do you talk with a 16-year-old when tempers flare, issues get muddled, and frustration mounts? How do you carry on as a parent when the customary lines of communication are down? You can't ignore the issue, and it won't go away.

I had just sent my son off to school one morning several weeks ago when I sat down at the typewriter to work. But I couldn't concentrate, because uppermost in my mind was the argument we had had. Oh, I know i shouldn't bring up touchy issues at breakfast, but I did. Now both of us were angry, and positions hardened. My heart ached because my son is a fine young man, whom I respect and am exceedingly proud to claim.

I'm not sure now what triggered the incident. Priorities have alwyas been a sore point at our house. It may have been that I asked David to finish his breakfast and straighten his room before reading the paper. I don't know. It doesn't matter.

I sat staring at the typewriter. Then I started to doodle. Anything to get me off dead center. My doodles were words. I wrote "priorities." I realized, when I looked down, that I was lining up the things I needed to air.

On paper everything looked so harmless that I wondered why the words so often led to confrontation.

All of a sudden -- out of the blue -- it hit me. I had the answer. If speech fails, put the words to paper.

Now whenever I have something especially important to say to David, I write it. Last week I wrote him two letters on one day because there was so much to talk about.

When I'm ready, I sit down at the typewriter with a piece of good bond paper. I use block style, and I write from a short outline.

Since the letter is pinned to his bulletin board, he can read it at his conenience, and I've made it a policy never to ask if he's seen it. I manage instead to write well enough (he's an editor at his high school paper) and provocatively enough (I know him) so that he'll respond because the issues deserve attention. He does.

By the time he does we've both had time to consider the facts independently, and not in the heat of battle (typewriters don't yell!). Much frustration has been dispelled for me by the creativity of the approach. And rather than anticipate a confrontation, I anticipate more positive results, and as a result I usually get them.

For David, there's an opportunity to think things through in the quiet of his room, and perhaps talk with his father or a friend, if he chooses. That's up to him.

He determines the time for discussion, but I rest easy because I know he's alerted to important considerations.

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