Frustrated parents often complain that as their kids reach adolescence, the communication stops. “When they were little, they used to tell me everything, but now, they won’t talk at all.”
A while back, a friend shared that same frustration. When she picked up her son from middle school and tried to talk to him about his day, he would shut down. She sincerely wanted to know what he was experiencing, but there seemed to be a wall between them.
Weeks passed, and as the silent rides home became almost unbearable, she found herself contemplating how her relationship with her child had changed over the course of his growing up. She recalled the joy she felt when he first learned to walk and talk. When he took his first steps, she happily encouraged him, rejoiced in his efforts, giggled with him when he tumbled, and applauded his accomplishments. When she taught him the names of animals and colors, she remembered how her voice was filled with wonder, excitement, and joy-and how he had mirrored those emotions back to her.
But as her son learned to walk (and go where he might get hurt) and to talk (and say “No”), her communication with him changed. Joy over his increased independence gave way to fears for his safety; excitement was often tempered by weariness; a sense of the mundane replaced the wonder. Gradually, daily expressions of joy disappeared. She decided it was time for a change. Instead of asking her son about his day, she would tell him what she had enjoyed about hers.
She was a dental assistant, so when she picked up her son that afternoon, she began excitedly talking about how much fun she had that morning putting veneers on a patient’s teeth and how beautiful his smile looked as a result. Her son was non-responsive, but she stuck to her plan. Each day, she chatted happily about what she had enjoyed at work. A week later, when she picked him up, the boy was all smiles as he got in the car. Without her having to ask, he began telling her about something funny that had happened during his lunch break. From then on, their afternoon rides were filled with conversation.
Joy is not an exception to the rule;
It is an integral part of life; it is essential.
In sharing the high points of her days, my friend had signaled her son that it was alright to express joy. How often do we tap down positive feelings to seriously focus on daily routines and tasks? How often do we want to express happiness but decide that the time isn’t right after taking the room’s emotional temperature? How often do we hide our joy because we fear others might not appreciate it?
Joy is not an exception to the rule; it is an integral part of life; it is essential. Opening our eyes to joys great and small, embracing them in good faith, and fearlessly sharing them with those we love seals us to them in bounds that time can never erode.
Rob Lauer is an award-winning, nationally-produced and published playwright with over 35 years of experience in the entertainment industry. His national credits include production work for MGA Films, Time/Warner TV, The Learning Channel and The History Channel. Locally, Rob has been producing, directing and hosting three TV series for PCTV (the City of Portsmouthâ€™s official channel) since 2011.