The teen years and silence. So much is said about how our children retreat, pull inward, keep thoughts to self.
That is yet to be my reality, but silence has descended upon the scene. Silence. My silence.
When my son shares with me the gritty details of teen living, of feelings, friends’ behavior, risks and calamities avoided, I grow more silent. I let him speak and don’t leap in with my words. I wait for the pause in the conversation, read his eyes, see if he wants me to comment. I tread carefully knowing that an unwelcome response can shut the door on future disclosures. And I often misstep, speak against a friend he just railed on only to see him do an about-face and defend the same person. It’s like chiming in to criticize someone’s boyfriend only to see loyalty and love rear up and come charging back at you. It all requires a light touch.
But there’s another silence that enters the teen years: my (un)willingness to share specifics here upon the page of the discussions I have with my son. The cute quotes get tucked away. The overwhelming concerns hide in my conscience. His pain, it all gets more private. Because there really is something unique about this phase, and number one for me is respecting my child. Number one is keeping him coming back to me for as long as he’s willing.
Trust. It is so tender at this age, so easily damaged, such a precious commodity.
“We are a village,” other parents say as they beg to exchange details of our children’s teen behavior, details of what our children are doing when out of sight.
I have some knowledge that I don’t share, a fine line to walk, for this knowledge comes to me from my son, and my primarily responsibility is to keep that line of communication open and flowing. If I witness something first hand, I have every right to report – and I will if a child is at risk – but if the information comes to me via my teen, I must respect his disclosure.
Is this easy? Absolutely not. Were I to hear of escalated dangerous behavior from my son, would I go to the child’s parents? This is the struggle, for I may help one family and never hear another word from my son. I could lose contact with all future disclosures, disclosures that could prove more critical, disclosures of my son’s own behavior that I must be there to hear.
Were my son to share something that required immediate intervention, I would assert the need to share this information. My son and I have talked about this, but it’s dicey. It would be a negotiation, but I would hope to prevail in stressing the need to speak up, in receiving my child’s blessing to help a friend.
Other parents may scream in hearing my reticence to break my son’s trust, but may I ask, “Would you risk shutting down your child’s voice in order to call another parent to report pot smoking?”
But then I ask myself, “What if the drug use is more serious, what do we do? What if I hear about risky sex or other disquieting behavior?”
This is an ongoing conversation, a conversation with self that takes place in my head, in a room of silence. Meanwhile my son’s voice returns home everyday at 3:00.