On the last afternoon of my son’s spring vacation, right when his annoyance at me had reached its apex and his blood sugar had bottomed out, I suggested that it might be a good time for him to get a jump start on his next book report. The one that isn’t due until mid- May.
Recently, Tech Support has become much more private. About everything. Where my 12-year old son used to willingly spill all the beans at once, now he doles them out in microscopic handfuls. And even then, I get a little morsel only after extensive prodding and threats of punishment. Picture a skinny 7th grader with freckles and a pre-recorded robot voice. Because basically, that’s what I’ve got goin’ on these days.
This is how most our after-school conversations sound:
Me: How was school? Tell me something cool that happened today.
TS: I do not like to talk about my academic life.
Me: Well, your father and I think it is important that we know what you do during the day.
Me: Tech Support, it’s not like I’m asking you to reveal our nation’s secrets. If you don’t tell me something about your day, there will be a consequence.
TS: Will this consequence involve my iPod Touch?
Me: It might.
TS: I had a very good day.
Me: That’s a little vague. Can you be more specific?
TS: I do not like to talk about my personal life.
Me: Can you tell me who sat with you during lunch?
TS: I do not remember.
Me: How is that possible?
Me: Okay, what about that girl from last year. Do you still see her?
TS: I do not like to talk about my social life.
Me: If you don’t give me something, there will be a consequence.
TS: Will this consequence involve my iPod Touch?
Me: It might.
TS: She still likes me. I know because she still emails me once in a while and talks to me in the hall. But she doesn’t like like me.
Me: How are you doing in your classes?
TS: I don’t like to talk about my grades.
Me: Are you kidding?
TS: If I don’t answer you, will I lose my iPod Touch?
Me: You are heading in that direction.
TS: Then I am doing very well. Very well, indeed. I have A pluses in all my classes. I have found a way to stop the United States dependency on foreign oil. I did this in science with my lab partner. I have written many long essays in English. My gym teacher loves me.
Me: Are you messing with me?
Me: Dude, you are exhausting.
TS: *smiling* Will that be all?
Me: May I ask one more question?
TS: If I do not answer, will I lose my iPod Touch?
Me: That joke is wearing thin.
TS: Fine. *glaring* What?
Me: How is the Bar-Mitzvah preparation going?
TS: Very well. When I get up to read from the Torah, I plan to bust out into a rap. Or sing like Operaman. It will be excellent. Everyone will love it. They will think I am awesome and tell me I should be a rock-star when I grow up.
Me: If you do that . . .
TS: . . . will it involve my iPod Touch?
Me: No. *not smiling* It will involve this . . .
And then I jump on him. I tackle my snarky little son who suddenly knows all the answers to everything. He is longer than I remember. And stronger. We are laughing as our fingers intertwine.
Tech Support and I notice at the same moment that our hands are the same size.
TS: That’s weird. When did that happen?
I think about his question. I remember his tiny fingers wrapped over the edge of his blanket, how he used to clumsily grab magic markers and paintbrushes. I think about the way he used to build with LEGOs and K’Nex and how he still loves to make magnetic creations with those super tiny Bucky Balls. I consider how gracefully he holds his sabre before each bout.
My son interrupts my thoughts.
TS: I think I know when it happened.
I tilt my head, lean in, and give all my attention to him.
TS: Probably while I was on my iPod Touch.
What physical and/or emotional changes do you remember people commenting on as you grew up? Or what did/do you notice changing about your child/ren? How did your parents punish you? Do you ever take away your kid’s iPod Touch?
Can you imagine if my kid does a Hebrew version of this on his Bar Mitzvah? Oy!
On the last afternoon of my son’s spring vacation, right when his annoyance with me had reached its apex and his blood sugar had bottomed out, I suggested that it might be a good time for him to get a jump-start on his next book report. The one that isn’t due until mid-May.
“Only 18 days to work on it!” I joked.
Except I wasn’t really joking.
Monkey agreed, if reluctantly, to work on his first paragraph. He disappeared for twenty minutes and then returned. I asked him if he would read his paper. He groaned, but he obliged. I suggested that his thesis could use a little tweaking and asked him to go and work on the paragraph a little bit more. He declined. Adamantly. I persevered. We locked horns.
I should have predicted what was going to happen next, but I didn’t.
I shouted louder.
Eventually, he screamed, got a little teary-eyed, and stomped off to his bedroom – ostensibly to revise.
After fifteen minutes, when he did not materialize, I decided I would check on his progress. That’s when I found Monkey. Under his bed. He had gone there to hide.
From the world.
From the work.
But, mostly, from me.
The next thing I knew, I was lying on my son’s rug. My cheek brushing against the carpet, I remembered how – as a child – I tried to cajole an escaped gerbil into coming out from its hiding place.
At first he wouldn’t even talk to me. After a while, though, he let me have it.
“I just don’t understand why it had to be perfect!” Monkey sniffed. “It’s just a friggin’ first draft! I have over two weeks to work on it.”
It was my “Oh shit!” moment.
And he was 100% right.
Which meant I had to apologize.
And so I apologized to Monkey for getting all up in his grill about his school work. Truth is, he is about the most organized person I know when it comes to time management. And I told him so. I also told him that sometimes it’s hard for me – especially when it comes to writing – to just let things be. I told him how “imperfect” is hard for me when it comes to English.
“Also,” I confessed, “I didn’t know that you actually revise.”
“Of course I do,” he said. “Geez! Give me some credit!”
I felt I had to offer Monkey something more than an apology. (More than the snack that he, also, clearly needed.) After all, I felt I had really underestimated him.
And then I got an idea.
“I would like to extend an offer to you,” I said. “Are you interested?”
“Maybe,” said Monkey, still facing the wall.
“The next time I say, ‘You just lost your iPod Touch,’ you have a free ‘Gimmee-Back-My-Touch’ card,” I said. “You know like those ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards in Monopoly? Like that.”
Monkey rolled over to face me. The slats of his bed hovered a half an inch above his ear.
“Make me a card!” he demanded. “And decorate it insanely with icons from all the apps I like. And add lots of stickers and stuff. And put it in a cool font.”
Suddenly, I felt that I’d been duped. Somehow I went from apologizing to my son to negotiating with a terrorist.
“And no expiration date!” he said smugly. “That’s your homework,” said Monkey, smiling, letting me know everything was okay with us.
He grunted as he slithered out from under his bed.
He isn’t going to be able to fit under there much longer.
“Also, there’s a friggin’ huge, hairy-dust ball under there,” said Monkey, trying to see if I’d let him get away with his second friggin’ of the day.
“Yeah,” I said. “I kind of noticed it rolling around while I was talking to the back of your head.”
We both burst out laughing.
Thank goodness for hairy-dust balls.
“May I please go and ride my bike before vacation ends?” Monkey asked.
“Dismissed,” I said.
“Thanks,” yelled Monkey and, as he ran out the door he added, “I’ll expect your homework by dinner!”
Anybody have any good stories about apologizing to your kids?