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Cam Marston on the Goldilocks Zone

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A father and I stood next to one another watching our teenaged sons warm up for their event at a track meet last weekend. I said to him, “I really enjoy talking to your son. He’s easy to talk to. He’s bright and articulate. Lots of interesting things to say. He’s always happy and smiling. He’s great. Well done, Dad,” I said with sincere appreciation. And the father looked at me and it’s hard now to describe his expression. It was something like “are you being serious? Please tell me you’re not joking.”

“Really,” the father said. “He says nothing around the house. He tells me nothing. I sometimes wonder if he ever feels anything or if he’s forgotten how to talk.” He went on. “When your son was at our house last week working on that science project I enjoyed talking to him. Everything you said about my son is what I’d say about yours. In, fact, I was going to ask you how you get him to talk to adults.”

“Really,” I said, “My son says nothing around my house, either. Nothing. Maybe one syllable words or grunts. He offers us no news on his world at all. We can’t even trick him into talking. Nothing.”

Teenaged boys. Maybe they’re all like this. Maybe it’s just our sons. My suspicion is that they’re all like this. “Don’t tell your parents anything,” they must think. “If you start talking, they’ll want to give you advice or they’ll end up asking you to do a chore around the house. It’s best to avoid your parents altogether.” In my house, the best way to clear my teenaged children out of a room is for me to simply walk in to it.

I have friends who claim to have great relationships with their teenaged daughters. “We talk about everything,” they say, “my girls share everything.” I’m not sure I want that, either. That might be too much. I know I didn’t want to tell my parents everything when I was a teenager. Somewhere between nothing, which is where I am now, and too much. Something in the middle. That’s the goldilocks zone. That would be just right. Right now, I’m stuck on nothing.

Some friends with sons in their twenties claim their sons call and ask their fathers for advice. I can’t even imagine.

Last week, this text from a friend who my son was staying with a few nights over spring break: He is usually the first to say hello, thank you, and always asks if there is anything he can do to clean up. Very nice kid. Like having him around.

What? Where is this boy in my house? After I got up off the ground, I saved the text.

I think the expression that parents use is “he shows well.” And I guess that matters for something.

I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep it Real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.