My teenage son is blunt.
He's kind of like my great-great-aunt, Dot, who had a habit of saying what she thought. And, as unflattering as it might have been, she always sounded so sweet. Like she was serving a plate of peach cobbler. Topped with ice cream. My son is exactly the same. He can spit out what some people might consider to be abrasive comments, but he presents them in the nicest way.
I might ask him an innocent question like, "Hey, I'm heading to the mall to run an errand. Do you have any interest in coming?"
And, as opposed to just giving me a simple "no," he's more likely to reply (in the same tone someone else might say, "Hey, what a pretty rainbow!"), "No. I really don't want to be seen with you."
"Gee," I shoot back. "I didn't really need the reasoning behind it."
"I'm just being honest, Dad. You want me to be honest, don't you? You don't want me to be a kid who lies and isn't truthful, do you? Wow!"
Obviously, this kid needs a crash course in diplomacy. But, as with all things involved with being a parent, I put my trust in time, patience and thick skin. I guess it would bother me if we didn't get along. We do. Wonderfully. In fact, he tells me regularly that all his friends actually like me. So I think that buys him a little more tolerance on my end. Us parents have to pick our battles carefully. Yes?
Maybe that's why last Saturday night he completely floored me. He had been watching afternoon sports on TV. Taking naps off and on. But when I finally made him get up around 5:00 p.m. and asked him to talk with me about his plans for the evening, he hit me with a curve ball.
"I think I just want to stay home tonight, Dad. I don't feel like going out with people. You want to watch a movie here? Just you and me?"
I went over to the couch he was lying on and sat down next to him to talk. It also gave me a chance to feel his forehead, which I knew was going to register a doozy of a fever. But he was fine.
"Sounds great," I told him. "I need to run to the grocery store. Why don't I warm you up some pizza before I leave? You eat and we can pick out a movie when I get home."
While grocery shopping, I thought about picking up some special treats to eat. Caramel corn? Maybe splurge in the frozen treat section and come home with something to warm up and munch on during the movie? But I decided against it. Anytime I make the slightest "thing" out of anything, I get in trouble. Somehow, I just knew that this night was going to unwind into a bad ending.
"I'm home," I shouted as I walked in the back door of our house.
"Hurry up," he yelled back. "I picked out a movie! I just started it!"
Great, I thought to myself. The night was going so well. But now I was doomed to watching two hours of teenage humor. I hate feeling hostage to his stuff, pretending not to mind the language, far-too-suggestive story lines and yet one more joke whose punchline involved bodily noises.
"I got us the original Dark Knight," he started to say. "You've never seen it and I thought you'd like to watch that. Is that okay?"
He now just turned this night into a double-play. First, he suggested we hang. And second, he goes and puts my interests ahead of his?
We are making progress, folks.
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