When They Start Talking, Stop.
If you hear yourself saying, "Not now . . . " to your adolescent son or daughter, STOP. Take a breath. Ask your careening-toward-empty-nesting self, "If not now, when?"
If you have teenagers, you know they only talk to you at inconvenient times. When you are exhausted, on the phone with your doctor, or rushing to meet a deadline, your kid gets chatty. (Please see "Mom, Interrupted" for my catalogue of just one such evening at our homestead.)
Approach with Care.
If your teen should ask or say something demanding your attention, STOP. Sit frozen if you must--ignore hunger, bladder, errands that need running--if you are lucky enough to find yourself in the midst of a real conversation. It's like coaxing a squirrel to eat from your hand. You don't want to make any sudden movements or break the magic of the moment.
And what magic it is when teenaged people start spilling their guts! When that veil lifts, amidst their ramblings (if we are patient enough) we will hear secrets, code words, intel about friends, and the true longings of their confused little hormonal hearts.
If we pay especially close attention, as their frontal-lobes gradually develop, we will hear the whispers of understanding, forgiveness, and even burgeoning, adult respect for us.
And then the veil falls and they're grumpy and reticent again. So it is: ephemera, a moment in time . . and the stuff that dreams are made on.
Don't stop trying to get your kids to talk. I have posted some practical tips on doing just that (Good Questions to Ask) (One More Vote in Favor of Family Dinner). But as we schedule more formal attempts to get through to them, let us not miss their casual, spontaneous, serendipitous (often just so inconvenient!) moments of communication.
Unplanned, catch-em-while-you-can moments of conversation reveal the everyday magic of living with teenagers. Our dinner will keep; our plans can be re-scheduled; our children will never be this age again. So much of it is painful--seize those fleeting moments of genuine connection while you can.
[Optional: if you want to get maudlin about it--as I am inclined to do--here's a little "Cat's in the Cradle" to mess with your head.]