This was my view for much of a recent hike with my son: his lanky frame in front of me between the curves of our trail. It was a rare just-you-and-me moment for us---- few and far between these days. And those moments always put a lot of pressure on me---- should I bring up all the important subjects at once?! Or let things develop?
He was extremely quiet. In fact, he often is. I don't know that it's his age or just his personality--- I'm quiet, too. With my kids the age they are, my experience is that full communication is as unpredictable as trying to forecast a rainbow. Forget about it. But when it happens---- when they are receptive and open--- I listen. And I ask. And I'm present.
My son wasn't ready for long conversations today.
I asked him about potential colleges. About driving. About his friends. About the plot to his newest story he's writing. About the book I brought home for him to read. His answers were one to two words, at most. I asked him how he felt about going to college in a little over a year and his answer was, "nervous."
Frankly, it was all okay with me.
At his age, I remember all too well adults trying to pry information from me (they called it communicating)----- how their "let's talk" voice alone sent shivers up my spine. And advice---well, it was plentiful. I remember adult family friends telling me of my "vast potential" and that I'd have "all the time in the world to pursue relationships" after I'd settled myself into a successful career. Yet, those words fell on young and stubborn ears. The ears of a young adult who had not experienced the far reaching cause and effect of adult decisions yet. I had my own agenda. And frankly, don't we all? Don't we all have our own custom-made, personal lessons to learn from our choices in life? I know I did.
So, on this evening with my son, rather than pushing the point, I waited for cues from him. Cues that weren't there. He politely waited for me when I lagged behind----as I was taking too many photos of the beautiful views--- but moved on when I caught up. He asked me when we would return to town because he wanted to go to the local festival, wondering if it was still going on. He had his own agenda that night.
I've learned that so much of parenting older kids is about choices: "reading" their moods and being there when they're receptive. Guiding rather than telling. Backing off when you need to. And all the while, I'm sure that I'm facing more of my own lessons as their parent, as well. We often learn through teaching.