Thursday, August 09, 2012

A Little Dishing Over Cheesecake

Last night, Aidan (our typical kid) and I had our weekly dinner date after his rock group and electric guitar lesson. See, on Wednesday nights, Conor and my husband go out to dinner and Aidan and I are persona non grata. 

So, fine, be that way. Aidan and I have our own little evening out each week, just the two of us.

Over Aidan's bow tie pasta and my HUGE Mexican tortilla salad at The Cheesecake Factory, my 10 year-old and I had a heart-to-heart about what to expect out of the fourth grade (bottle rockets! the egg experiment! a camping trip! more homework!), how to balance taking on an additional instrument (drums) while also playing fall baseball and flag football, and how to be more organized and independent with his pre-school routine.

I don't know how we got on the subject, really, but all of a sudden Aidan declared he has always wanted to be a marine biologist. 

Check out the clip, it's STILL hilarious

Now, I think Aidan just likes to catch fish and crab off a dock, but he's decided that he's really, quite terribly interested in marine life and how cool would it be to spend all day on a boat catching fish and helping to cure fish rabies?  I mean, really, how cool? (Ignore the fact that fish rabies doesn't exist.  At least, I don't think it does. Maybe piranha suffer from it? I don't know, I'm certainly no marine biologist.)

Practically knocking over his root beer in his haste, Aidan grabbed my iPhone and proceeded to look up what he needed to do to become a marine biologist. We had quite a lively banter about how much school, exactly, does one need to become one. (He was a little taken aback by the amount of school one must suffer through to get a Ph.D.)

Except Aidan wouldn't be a world class philanderer.
And which school to choose?  There were so many!  There was Duke (no way his dad would approve of that, thank you) or the University of Miami but surprisingly also the University of Maryland--right down the road!  

(Although, knowing my boy, he would wind up at the University of Hawaii.  I mean, why wouldn't you?)

Now, I have no illusions about Aidan really becoming a marine biologist. Quite frankly, I think he'd make an excellent kindergarten teacher. He loves children and he's always right. (At least, in his mind.)

But by the end of the evening, I felt like I had just swallowed a dose of brandy, all warm and cozy and wrapped up in a fleece blanket in the middle of winter. 

I felt good. It felt great. We had connected. He shared dreams and aspirations with me. We had a meaningful back-and-forth about things that impact us as a family.

And he admitted that he didn't want to live with us when he went to college--which he had been saying--so whew. Dodged that bullet. (I mean, I love ya kid, but get outta here at 18 already.)

Driving home, though, it struck me how much I miss having conversations with Conor. 

I can't help it. I know it sounds silly after all these years.  But I still mourn the lack of conversation and connection with my older son. 

I mean, of course I feel connected to Conor. He's my son. I love him and he loves me back.  But I don't mean the intimacy of spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week with someone (c'mon school!). That's a connection of a different sort. 

I miss the heart-to-heart, the social connectedness and the intimacy you feel with someone that you've known for years, through ups and downs. The mutual sharing that naturally happens when you each talk about experiences and perspectives and something as simple as what you did that day at work or at school.

It feels a little weird to miss something you never had.

Only rarely do I receive flashes of insights from Conor. He's still mostly a one-way street. Honestly, sometimes it feels like he has a better relationship with the iPad than he does with me.  

The outsides of Conor, that I know well. His chubby cheeks, the scars on his elbow from breaking his arm, the signals that his stomach hurts or he has to go to the bathroom.  His tantrums, his perseverations, his smile, and his laugh--I know these all by heart.

It's what's inside Conor's mind that I struggle to reach. It can't only be a chaotic mishmash of calculators and numbers and ceiling fans and clocks and racing from activity to activity. It just can't.

For him, it's a struggle to get it out.  For me, it's a guessing game.  He struggles to identify even simple emotions, how could I possibly parse out his more complex hopes, fears, dreams, and his aspirations? 

Despite my son's verbal skills, despite all of the time we spend together, Conor remains somewhat of an enigma to me. 

I'm sorry, I feel like I'm not doing a very good job of expressing myself.  I just want to have a meaningful conversation with my son, one that doesn't entail his wanting me to buy something or to take him somewhere or to do a preferred activity or for him to whine and scream at me. 

I would just like him to talk to me.  Just... talk to me, not at me.

We're getting there, but it is painfully slow.  Glacial, even. If he's excited about an event or a purchase, he'll expound on it over and over.  Often, he'll use the same exact phrases and expressions.  He'll talk to the camera for 3 minutes and 35 seconds or hold his hand up for a high-five after each script.  If you listen closely, you'll notice that he can converse about the concrete things, but not the abstract, emotional ones. (Half the time, when I ask him what he did that day, he says, "I need help."  Or simply, "I had fun.")

But a bona fide, honest-to-God conversation about his thoughts and feelings?  Nope. Not yet, anyway.

He's like a 5,000 piece puzzle that's been dumped into a big Ziploc baggie.  All the pieces are there, I think, but I don't have the box top to use as a guide. I just have to sit patiently and search through all the pieces and painstakingly fit them together.

With a glass of wine by my side, of course. 


Jean said...

I would do almost anything to have 2 way conversation with my son. I have no idea what is going on inside his mind, or how he perceives the world. It breaks my heart.
I know where you're coming from XXX

Anonymous said...

Reading about your outing with Aidan, it bothered me. It bothered me because I also don't have that connection with my Connor. Sometimes I worry that I never will, because his body and brain are always moving so fast, that I'm not sure he even knows what he's feeling from one minute to the next. I can only hope that with each passing hear he slows down just a teeny bit more, allowing the space for thoughts and dialogue to take place.

I hope.

I hope you do, too.