The teenager emerges from what used to be called his bedroom but is know commonly known as his lair.
“How long until dinner?”
There’s a tint of impatience in his voice, which tells me that he’s hoping dinner is either five minutes or five hours away.
“About fifteen minutes,” I reply, immediately prompting a deep frown. He starts retreating, but I stall his way back up the stairs with a half-question, delivered in a voice that is slow and gentle, as if I were talking to an injured baby bird. “You seem unhappy about my answer?”
He rolls his eyes, but remains still. I have a window.
“If you tell me why you’d like to have dinner later, we may come to an agreement. But you do need to use your words.” Exact same thing I used to tell him when he’d fling construction blocks across the room to express displeasure with his situation. Parenting is a long game.
He rocks his head back and forth. The husband gives me that look that means “let the poor kid go,” but it ain’t happening.
My parents’ recipe was to let me be, to leave things unsaid, to prevent conflict and discomfort at all costs — although half of the time, they wouldn’t know there was any, because a nod was good enough. So my signature recipe is to be annoying as hell in the eyes of the teenager, and in my own, the embodiment of the rallying cry nevertheless, she persisted.
“You can just say what you were hoping to do, and then we can see if we can compromise. Unfortunately, I cannot read your mind. Neither can other humans that you’ll interact with out in the world. So if you do want something, you have to say it.”
He releases a deep sigh and out emerges a mumble.
“I was hoping to have some time to do stuff.”
I look back at the husband with that delicious look of victory and suppress a round of applause.
He’s already climbing back up as he says, “Sure”.