Conversations with your teenager
On the way home from school one day, my daughter said, “Why do people like to watch sports? I think sports are boring.”
An alarm rang in my head. She just asked me to explain something. This was an opportunity to have a real conversation. I had to be careful. It was like having a butterfly land on the palm of my hand. If I tried to grasp tightly, I would crush this moment. If you have had teenagers, you know you cannot schedule opportunities for real conversations. They just land, last a few moments, then fly away.
I asked for a little more information, and she told me that when her friends talk about sports, she cannot relate. She does not like to watch sports.
“Sometimes when we take time to understand what someone else finds interesting about a subject, it can become interesting to us,” I responded.
“You mean I should pretend to be interested? Isn’t that kind of like lying?” she asked.
Great, I thought, my daughter thinks I am telling her to lie. No parent wants to teach their child to lie, but for a minister it’s doubly bad. After a moment of careful thought, I replied, “No, you are not pretending. You are asking them to explain their interest to you. You may or may not think it is interesting after you hear what they have to say, but at least you will understand what they find interesting.”
“So what did you pretend to be interested in when you met Mama?” she asked.
Another alarm went off, this time much louder. Not only was I not communicating clearly, there was no right answer to this question.
I composed myself and said, “I did not pretend to be interested in anything. I did discover some very interesting things about gardening, and have a better appreciation of how to design flower beds so different things come into bloom at different times.”
“So you like to garden now?” she responded. “I never see you gardening.”
“I am still not much of a gardener,” I said, “But I can understand why she enjoys it.”
“Hmm,” she said, then her phone beeped to let her know a text had just arrived. I knew that the moment for our conversation had just drifted away.
One of the joys of relationships is that they open us to new ideas and new ways of looking at the world. This does not mean that we will always come to an agreement. It is unlikely that my daughter will ever enjoy watching sports or that I will become an avid gardener, but when we have conversations, we can find a new appreciation for something we did not understand.
I have been a priest for 16 years. I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010. If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.