The following appeared in the January edition of Chicago Parent.
When picking up the kids from their various activities, I usually encourage them to walk outside and look for me in the parking lot. It just makes all my after-school shuttling easier.
Yet the other day, I decided to park the car and walk into Dan’s hockey work-out facility for a peek. Behind the glass, my giant 14 year-old stopped, smiled, and delivered a spot-on Forrest Gump wave.
The other parents marveled. They shared how their stereotypical teenagers refused to acknowledge their very existence, and their kids’ only reaction to having parents was unadulterated embarrassment.
I had to tell them.
Yeah. I got one of those, too.
My middle son, Jack, has recently regressed to verbal infancy and only uses monosyllabic words to answer questions. His poker-faced history of being difficult to read has only gotten worse with age. It’s been worrying me a lot lately.
In response, I started peppering him with more questions than usual about his daily life, incorporating inquiries like:
How did you FEEL when your friend threw up in gym glass?
Did it BOTHER you when you lost that hockey game?
What made you laugh the HARDEST today?
Yeah. Jack grunts and I still get nothing.
I was forced to incorporate a time-honored tactic of parental espionage:
“I’ll let you stay up a little longer if you sit next to me and talk.”
This last time, I had to know. Was Jack happy? Was he enjoying his childhood? Was he ready to move out and pretend he didn’t have a mother anymore?
So I asked:
“What is the BEST thing that’s happened to you during your childhood?”
I was expecting Jack to go on about a tournament win or one of our many family vacations. Instead, he responded:
“Remember that one play-off game where you wore my hockey jersey?”
I did. All the other hockey moms had big kids, but I had to squeeze my chubby self into my smallest child’s jersey. Breathing was restricted. I felt like I was wearing a half-shirt. But I did it anyway.
“Yeah. That was the best.”
Suddenly, despite the grunts and eye rolls, I realized I was still the center of my child’s universe.
And it made having to walk 50 yards behind him at all times just that much easier.