Ready to Talk About It
By Beth M. Wood
“Mama?” my three year old calls from his bedroom doorway, “I’m ready to talk about it!”
Back then I would smile a secret smile, and race up the stairs to pull him into a great big bear hug, cuddle up and talk it out.
From the moment I knew of my first son’s existence within me – when he was just a baby blue plus sign – I talked to him constantly. Out loud or in my head, it didn’t matter. I felt that he could hear me somehow. That he understood. I’d tell him my biggest fears, my greatest accomplishments. About my first love, about how his daddy and I met, mistakes I’d made along the way – my hopes for him.
Home from the hospital, he slept, and slept. Family and friends told me to enjoy every second of it. “Sleep when he sleeps!” they cried. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop staring at this perfect little creature. Each moment of his little life was a milestone. I was so anxious for his first poop that I called the pediatrician in the middle of that first night home. “What seems to be the trouble?” the doctor asked me over a yawn.
“He won’t poop.”
“Did you say ‘He won’t poop’?”
“Well, the book says he’s supposed to poop in the first 24 hours…” I trailed off, feeling foolish, but determined to get to the, um, bottom of it.
“Listen Mrs. Wood,” he sounded a little exasperated. “If you stare at his bum long enough, something’s bound to come out.”
And when it finally did, I praised him endlessly. That’s when he started crying. And crying. Other moms, even the pediatrician, told me to listen to the cries. One meant hungry, one meant tired, another, a wet diaper. For the first two months I wondered, “What in the world does it mean if I’ve already changed his diaper, fed him and given him a nap? What does it mean THEN?”
For the next six months my favorite words to him were “Shhh!” “Shh” as I rocked him, “Shhh” as I patted his back or changed his diaper.
Twelve months later, I couldn’t wait to hear that sweet voice utter his first word: “Mama.” I’d point like a fool at every object in our line of site and pronounce, oh so carefully, each noun –“CAR,” “BANANA” like I was trying to teach the language to a foreign exchange student with a hearing problem.
As the years went by, things changed between my little blue plus sign and me. Those free-spirited conversations with my little boy were fewer and further between. Somewhere between walking hand-in-hand into kindergarten and seeing – literally – eye to eye in middle school, the talks got shorter, and the silences grew longer. Time outs transitioned to groundings, and though they happened rarely, when they were over, he no longer wanted to talk about it. For the first time, when it came to my son, I was at a loss for words.
And Connor closed up: His mouth, his bedroom door. Even his arms were forever folded protectively across his chest. I was unsure what to talk about with him anymore: sports, school, movies? So many things seemed to be off limits. His grunts and one-word, mumbled responses spoke volumes to me. He didn’t feel like talking about it anymore. Or maybe just with me. Me, who has always loved to talk – whose parents used to sigh and then ask me to “take a break,” – was out of words.
How do I talk to him about that bully at school? How do I explain the hereditary condition that forces him to endure surgeries every 24 months? Or how proud I am of him for pushing through high school soccer tryouts only to suffer a hairline fracture on the very last day. And watch him sit on the bench anyway to show the coach he is not a quitter. How do I explain that friends make mistakes, girls will break your heart, disappointments are just a part of life, if he’s not listening?
That’s when I realized that he’d been talking to me all along. Just not with words. Connor’s was a silent form of communication. The folded arms meant something, as did the silences. I began to pay attention to the signs he was unwittingly giving me. And react to them, even in the smallest ways. When he spoke to me through a half-eaten dinner, I learned to give him space, and leave out small snacks at bedtime. And over time, he began speaking to me in other ways: with tight hugs, a huge smile on the soccer field or plans made with friends. I wanted very much to keep our relationship strong, and our conversations going, so I learned to just be present. To sit quietly – on the edge of his bed or in the car, or across from him at the kitchen table, and let him know, just with my presence…I’m ready to talk about it.
About this writer
- Beth M. Wood is an award-winning marketer, freelance writer and mom of three. Her social media addiction pays the bills and steady copywriting gigs feed her shopping habit. She blogs about marketing and social media at bethmwoodblog.com, digresses about life and parenting at bethmwood.blogspot.com and tweets @a1972bmw.
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