Great Expectations

"Expect nothing and you will not be disappointed." If I had reminded myself of that poignant quote I wouldn't be composing this blog post. However, when I returned home from a 5 day writer's conference, our 16 year old acted as though I'd never left. He handed out his last dose of hugs as if he was sharing his final sip of Red Bull after a raucous sleepover; reluctantly and with few words.

He left our short conversation petting the top of my hand as a final sarcastic act of affection. There was no, "How was your trip?" "What did you learn?" "We were lost without you!" or "Please don't ever go on another trip without us!" He simply left the kitchen with no reassurance of a quick return.

The narcissism of a teenager is often overwhelming for a mother who needs a speck of affection after 5 days away. Thankfully, the gift of a 9, 11, and 19 year old who desperately missed their mother and smothered her in hugs and conversation, was enough to soothe the sting of sixteen year old drowning in a moment of self centeredness.

Seconds later our son's friend who thankfully feels comfortable enough to enter the house without knocking, arrived. He was more talkative. He always is. I listened as he talked, making a point to ask very few questions and to take my ironic position as one who should been seen and not heard. The conversation dance is tricky with teens and often difficult to interpret.

Here is how the dance is performed: I listen and don't give much feedback. I don't dare ask a lot of questions. Nodding and feeding them seems to work well. Freshly made cookies really make them talk. I make them forget that I am  there while they engage with each other and I listen while pretending to not. I don't try and fit in, but absorb instead. If I ask too many questions, or try and join the conversation, they roll they eyes and make me feel like a conversation stalker who ought to be arrested. If they decide to let me participate I know that I must sign in on the sheet and wait for my name to be called. The dance isn't open to just anyone. I need a ticket and the ticket can expire at any time and without warning.

The evening ended with our son sitting at the kitchen counter where I was washing the last stack of dishes. He immediately burst into conversation dolling our sacred information regarding his day. I fed him first. While listening, I continued to remind myself of the dance rules being conscience not to over nod or share my opinion. We chatted for 20 minutes, and although he never asked about my trip or told me that I was missed, he accepted my ticket to the conversation, and that alone, was completely unexpected and utterly appreciated.