Not Talking

Are you a talker? What sort of talker? Do you prefer skimming the surface or do you dare to dig deeper? What about exploring topics that may challenge those around you – or for that matter, yourself?

Are you a good listener? Are you attentive to both spoken and unspoken messages? Tuned into body language, tone of voice, even hesitations and pauses? Do you deflect or reinterpret what you don’t want to hear?

I like to think I’m reasonably adept at speaking my mind, at doing so delicately if needed, and knowing when to probe as well as to pull back. Yet in recent months, I have come to realize how much I don’t talk about, and I’m wondering why.

Some of the reason is surely that I never knew how to broach the subjects at hand.

Sometimes, not talking is the better path to maintaining a relationship. It isn’t so much that we do not speak, as that we ascertain the best moment to speak.

Sometimes, not talking – in love, marriage, or parenting – riddles the relationship with holes. And the longer we don’t talk, the harder it is to begin again.

Privacy in a Relationship

I’ve offered the reasons I believe we should respect the need for privacy in romantic relationships. We are an increasingly confessional society; this works for some, but certainly not all; it’s a matter of discretion, relevance, and yes – healthy self-interest.

I’ve repeated my assertion that too much information on the Internet is a slippery slope. Some use blogging or Facebook to announce intimate details of both happy and tumultuous events. That choice is, of course, both personal preference and a matter of circumstances. But I don’t tell all, as I find an appropriate dose of self-censorship is, for me, more comfortable.

I’ve expressed my opinion that we nonetheless can speak our minds – rallying support when we need to, taking consolation as well, and working through the process of determining what we want and how we feel, by virtue of giving voice to our thoughts and experience in our digital communities.

How to Talk to Teenagers

I’ve written a good deal about my children, and about the highs and lows of dealing with teenagers. Like most parents, I’ve struggled with the task. I’ve done my best with a kid who wouldn’t talk – picking my moments (and digging for patience). I’ve explored some of the issues I’ve lived as a single mother, and glossed over dozens of others.

On certain topics, I’ve explicitly chosen not talking in a public venue. And when I do write of my sons, I hope I do so in ways that assure their trust.

As a woman raising men (and largely alone), I nonetheless worry about what was never said – couldn’t be said really, because I’m not a man. I also realize that I don’t know what my children discussed with their dad, or what behaviors he may have modeled, as all of that has been out of my control for years.

This is an unsettling awareness and admission as a parent.

Yet I can only assume that following divorce, it’s far more common than I know.

What We Don’t Talk About

In contemplating my sons and how they’re changing – yes, the result of having them home at Winter Break – I’m recognizing how much I never addressed with them. Other than going with my gut, how could I possibly know what to ask or how to frame it? How could I know what boys-to-men experience at puberty or through adolescence, as they grow more silent, selectively less emotive, and I’m left to read, to research, to observe, and to listen – as my only means to understand?

Even in our open-minded and intermittently chatty household, surely we were mum on any number of issues.

  • The details of our social lives. (Reasonable, you might say.)
  • The details of our financial situation. (More complicated, and for many reasons.)
  • Our health – though we’ve no reason to discuss it particularly. (And yet.)
  • New friends – though I admit there are so many names and faces (that in the latter teen years change so quickly) that I can hardly keep up.

I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know

While I don’t know what I don’t know, I’m considering a few of the things I never asked and, consequently, do not know.

Have my sons been bullied? Were they bullies? Can they fight? Do they know how? What about love? Have they been in love? What are they afraid of? What infuriates them? What could I have done better, and could I do anything now or is it too late?

And of course, there are the divorced parent’s questions I never asked: Do they blame me for their world being divided into a before and after? Is that only my impression, the cleaving of “a life” in two – and not theirs?

Have I given too much? Have I given too little? If I need them, will they be there for me in the future – as men?

Appropriate Conversation 

You can talk and not talk; you can observe, you can attend, you can consult with others. You can rely on common sense, including when your gut advises that you remain silent.

When it comes to romance, I firmly believe that we own the right to privacy when it comes to our respective pasts, at least, certain aspects of them. And over the years, I’ve improved my ability to speak clearly, to listen attentively, and to fight fair – another sort of communication skill – all of which I consider steps toward more genuine, more fitting, and more intimate relationships.

Not talking can be an act of courage, or indecision, or even cowardice. Life is a mixed bag; there are times I wish I’d spoken up, and others when I’m glad I kept my own counsel.

As for talking or not talking when it comes to the parenting job, am I suffering from the millennial motherhood reality that you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t?