Talk To Me, Look At Me

This week, my youngest son (he is turning 25 this month) and I joined in with The Huffington Post #TalkToMe project, an effort to document parents and kids talking about meaningful subjects. It's often said that kids don't talk to their parents enough because of cell phones, texts, the Internet, lack of sleep, over-scheduling, peers, and a host of other reasons. Sure, there are a million distractions, but to tell you the truth, I find that I converse with my kids more than my parents and I talked in the 1950s.

I had a loving and close relationship with both my parents, but a good deal of the time, the TV was on in the background. We didn't often discuss personal issues because there was a tendency not to want anyone to get upset (subjects like drugs, sex, and the like were pretty much taboo unless mom and I were talking about soap operas). So while I did debate politics with my dad now and then, our conversations were more often about what books I was reading in English class or whether my mini skirt was too short to wear to school. He loved to tell "stories" about his past, but he didn't get into anything heavy.

I regret to this day that I never asked my mom some of the questions my kids have asked me like, "What was your greatest challenge in life?" I really have no idea how my mom would have answered that, though it would be my guess that dealing with my father's health issues would have been right up there (he had several heart attacks and she was a widow for 13 years after he left us). As for her personal life, I'll never know. I once found her diary only to discover the entries were sparse sentences outlining a particular day's activities (laundry, shopping, a trip to the bank).

On the other hand, my mother and I often "spoke" without words; we could read each other's expressions, and we knew exactly what the other was thinking. The day my eldest son graduated from high school, we were both overflowing with tears, and we couldn't have spoken even if we'd wanted to. When our gazes met and our pride mingled with sadness, neither one of us could believe that he had grown up so fast, and would soon leave for college. A few months later my mom passed of a rare disease called amyloidosis. My last person-to-person words to her were "I love you."

We all have a lot going on in our lives, the pace keeps on racing, and there's never enough time, but face-to-face, word-to-word, heart-to-heart communication can never be replaced by cell phones, texts, or emojis and I think our kids understand this. I've found that when I'm willing to listen, they're willing to talk; when I make myself available and actively pay attention, my now young adult sons usually have something interesting, fascinating, funny, or heartfelt to say.

And yes, sometimes we do communicate with our eyes; I feel deeply connected to my three sons, and those meaningful looks of love, disapproval, amusement or plain old joy aren't just reserved for mothers and daughters. We just have to put the smartphones down to catch them!

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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