talking heads

Hey buddy, can we talk?


My kids used to talk my ears off. Really. I’d be listening to my son’s replay of a Spiderman comic plot line and my hearing sense would literally give out part way through. This phenomenon still happens – usually with the tween. He’ll wait for the perfect moment – I’ve got 12 balls in the air and the phone rings – to launch into a play-by-play of last night’s Canucks game. Then he’ll be downright insulted when he gets my conversation-killing Uh-huh.

Did you hear me, Mom? he’ll insist. Ummmmm…

I can’t blame him. Sometimes I get nervous to knock on my teen’s (aka comic kid) door to ask what’s up. That’s because he’ll un-velcro his eyes from the laptop screen as if it hurts. Badly. Like he’s being tortured. Then he fixes his stare on me and blinks, code for: You? Again? What now? A few weeks ago, he actually told me that instead of hearing my footsteps coming, he hears the phrase Uh-Oh forming in his brain. Nice.

And yet, I can’t stop my little intrusions into his space. All I get in the morning are mumbles and I understand the need to chill after school, to be alone for homework, and to eat in peace. Then the sun goes down and I miss his voice. I want to hear about his life – classes, friends, girls, whatever. Realizing you’re being shut out by your kid is the worst. You feel as if you’ve lost all your power. You’re like a dead battery, when all you want to do is connect. When I realize it’s happening, I’ll take anything. Even Spiderman.

My kids inhabit their own social worlds all day, every day. They’re basically on another planet, one that I remember only too well. Navigating the craters of high school is no easy feat no matter who you are. While they’re out there learning, making choices, getting high and getting hurt, I see them changing just a trace every day, moving away from the kids I know. And I don’t want to be so disconnected that I’m left behind.

We all know that relationships are built on communication and yet, with teens, we take for granted that it’ll just happen – the way it did when your 8-year-old told you about his first crush. It doesn’t. It’s really hard to talk to someone who spends half his life taking notes and the other half either grunting or texting. Especially when you have (arguably) a life of your own.

So recently, I stepped up my game. I figure the only way he’ll get used to me butting in on his time is to do it more often. Now, instead of just knocking on his door a twice a night and asking what’s new (a question that will never, EVER get me any news), I make sure I’m around when he’s around. And not just my ears. The rest of me, too.

I still wander in and out of his room at night (typically carrying some prop like a laundry basket or trash can) and I do more. I tempt him with the aroma of baking chocolate chip cookies and then pour us some milk and wait. I pop into the family room when he’s watching Community. I offer to drive him to the comic store (where he’s locked inside my van for a good 20 minutes, each way. Ha!). And I listen.

Lo and behold, I learned that when I turn on my ears, when I’m not so eager to lead the conversation, the kid does share, quietly, about what matters to him. There’s this tiny spark of conversation that I used to miss. The trick is to fan that flame. If I do more than my Uh-huh response, if I show a little actual interest, he’ll keep sharing. All I have to do is stop my juggling and tune into his frequency.

I have now come to appreciate my son’s take on religion (it’s definitely not mine), and on sci-fi movies I’ll never see. A few nights ago, he shared his headphones to play me a killer song he discovered then downloaded some classic songs I love onto my Mac. He also told me about a recent double date. In return, I told him about some stupid stuff I did in high school back when I thought popularity at all costs made perfect sense. (I’m a person, too. Remember?)

I think I have to be OK with being told I’m a Klingon. It’s worth it for a little connecting.

Spiderman? Canucks? Bring it on, fellas. I’m all ears.


About randi

Randi Chapnik Myers & Mara Shapiro don't get fazed by their teens. At least they try not to.


  1. I love the point – stop juggling and tune in! I need to be more mindful of that. Also I obviously need to bake more.

  2. elissapr says:

    Great post! Too often wer’re consumed with getting stuff done when our kids want to talk,. When you think about it, the dishes will still be there, the counter will still need to be cleaned 10 minutes later…there’s very little stuff that needs to be done in the moment when you’re kid is trying to talk. Last night, my DD12 suddenly decided she wanted to give me a makeover…at 9:30 p.m. It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. But I did it. We had fun and we talked. ‘Nuff said.

  3. It really does make me sad to think about how much my teen used to share with me and how much quieter he is’s an interesting time…trying to figure out when to give him his own time to chill, listen to music, whatever..and when to be a little bit pushy (Thank goodness he still likes to cuddle while watching TV together!) IT’s such a cliche…but they really DO grow up so quickly!!!

  4. I’d be all over those cuddles. Take what you can get!

  5. There are days when I spend 4 hours driving my girls all over town to do their stuff. There’s nothing like being locked in a car to get someone talking. Ask a couple of open ended questions and then I sit back and listen. Craziest thing ever… They have started asking ME how my day went and actually listening to my response! It is amazing.

    • It’s so true. The car is captive bonding time. Except when your teen decides to bring along his iPod so he can listen to his ‘own’ music!


  1. […] holding out hope that one day when I ask for some affection, she’ll say yes.  You heard me, I have to ask.  I have to ask my child, who came out of my vagina, if I can kiss her.   This is according to […]

  2. […] earphones or to check out their Tumblr page. That’s when I remind myself that anytime is a good time to connect about anything. Anytime meaning […]

  3. […] not. I let myself feel sad about the moments I was far from the ideal mom and thought about ways to deepen communication and enjoy the kids while they’re still living at […]

  4. […] shot back her definition and advised me to talk to my child about sex, drugs and booze – despite the fact that she was barely 13 and it was a sunny Sunday […]

  5. […] twelve year-old daughter usually comes to you for help on English homework, maybe asks advice on her haircut. You banter about movie stars, sports. But today she has you […]

  6. […] I corralled my my son in the car to ask if he would hook-up or take sexual favours from a girl at a party.  He looked bemused. I persisted. You know that’s not respectful of the girl, right?  Don’t you want to have a girlfriend? […]


  8. […] In the meantime, my kids are more likely to confide in me about their friend dynamics if I’m sitting on the sidelines quietly watching. I tend to nod, give measured advice when asked, and keep the line open for further communication. […]

Speak Your Mind