Your children tell you casually years later what it would have killed you with worry to know at the time. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966
Boys. I think most of us started to realize sometime around sixth grade that boys are not like us in ways that go far beyond just the merely physical. If we are lucky we learn how to communicate with them, eventually marry one, and have wonderful little boy babies. Little boys are just amazing. They manage to embody some of the best things about being male. They are brave and adventurous, chivalrous and funny, they worship their mothers and have delightfully tender hearts. Then they get bigger and we realize that they are weird alien creatures who just don't think like we do...
This morning my friends Debbie and Leeann both have blog posts about their boys and the frustrations of raising aliens. Why do they lie to avoid trouble when they know they will get in trouble if they lie? I don't really have an answer for that question but in the spirit of commiseration I thought I would share a story about my favorite alien boy.
Zane is a fairly quiet young man. He doesn't share a lot with us so I have learned, over the years, to watch him for clues. In many ways I now do this without even thinking about it. I can just tell when something is going on with him. I call it momsense. Sometimes I think something is wrong and, despite having no evidence of a problem, I just can't shake the need to interrogate the boy. A few days ago he left in the morning with a friend. They were going to purchase a parking pass at the college where he is taking classes this year and then go back to the high school for afternoon classes. A few hours later my momsense started pinging.. some thing's not right.. so I checked attendance (I love our computerized school district) and could see that he was in class just like he should be. So I told myself to stop it and went on with my day.. but I just couldn't shake the feeling. When the kids came home from school I asked Zane how his day had been and he said it was fine.. he seemed ok and I had to run Delaney to swimming so I didn't ask any specific questions. Later that evening though the momsense alarm started again... Now I really should stress that the boy was doing nothing wrong. He was in his room doing homework and looking like a model student but I went in and started the interrogation anyway.
"How was your day?"
"Was the line long for parking passes?"
"Did you have any problems?"
Vague answer plus "I've got to do homework."
Hmm... this called for deeper investigation..
"Where does the parking sticker need to go?"
"I don't know."
"Oh? Let me see it."
"Uh.. I think I left it in Shaun's car."
"Did you get a receipt?"
Now I know something is up. I stand there not saying anything, waiting. Years and years of telling him that lying will get him nothing but more trouble has led to this point. We both know he is not telling the truth, is he going to add layers to his deception now?
"Ok.. the truth is..."
Well.. on the way to the college, in the rain, the driver lost control of the car and ran off the road. The police were involved but no citations were issued. No major damage was done although a poorly installed radiator shook loose and needed to be reattached. The tow truck driver was kind enough to drop them at the high school in time for afternoon classes. Everyone was ok.. but shaken up.. and my son had decided to hide it from me because he thought I would get upset. Would you believe him? Once they start lying I question everything but he had proof. Pictures of the car on his cell phone, supporting evidence provided by the little sister who saw him return to school very upset (I haven't yet visited the issue of the sister who decided not to tell me what she knew.. hmmm...), and the money for his parking pass still in his wallet.
Why he tries to hide things like this is a mystery to me. I don't lose my mind when mistakes happen, I don't go overboard and ground him for life, I don't even yell, but he rarely tells me when something is wrong. Is he trying to protect himself from scorn or is he trying to protect me from disappointment? This time he gave in and told the truth without it being dragged from him. Maybe because he was shaken by what happened. Or perhaps it's also that he is maturing. Maybe I can look forward to a future without momsense alarms. A future where he will choose to tell me things he knows I might not like because he wants to be honest with me rather than just tell me what I want to hear. A future where I trust him to be a rational adult and he trusts me with the same.
I hope so.