There’s an old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, apparently that is also true for teenage boys. As our kids have gotten older it’s been more difficult to get them to spend time with us. It’s a natural progression of growing up; they get older, more independent and slowly stop being around all the time, sometimes at all.
As our daughter has grown up, I have always been able to spend time with her through shopping. Shopping is such a girl cliché, but it truly has been a means to maintain communication with her. Quite often we don’t buy anything other than a snack, but just having something to focus on other than talking has allowed us some really great time together.
While shopping seemed like a natural activity for me to do with our daughter, I’ve had a harder time finding common ground with our son. He’s a typical boy who likes video games, movies, and a variety of sports. I have never played a video game I liked, movies aren’t a good place to connect and I am athletically challenged, especially since he likes to play things like rugby. After racking my brain trying to find that same type of mindless activity that shopping provides, I have found that food offers the best opportunity.
Our son is somewhat like Dagwood Bumstead, he’s never met a sandwich he didn’t like and could eat from sun up to sun down and still be hungry. This summer I’ve spent a fair amount of time connecting with him via his stomach. I’ve surprised him with the occasional Raspberry Romance from ’s, which always makes him smile and gives me the chance to sit and talk to him while he happily drinks the icy fruit. We’ve had days where I suggest a quick run up to ’s to get a scoop of the flavor of the day, which gives us a little one on one time in the car. And we’ve had a few meals that we’ve cooked together, where I get his input on what he’d like for dinner and then ask him to help prepare it. He can be quite the sous chef, cutting and chopping vegetables for chicken and biscuits or helping mix chocolate chip cookie dough all the while talking about little things that give me insight.
I have also found immense pleasure in going out to dinner with just him. We have a different dynamic when it’s just the two of us, we can sit at Tres Potrillos, one of his all time favorites, munching chips while chatting away. He is never as chatty when we go out as a family, but something about sitting in a booth opposite me, with his favorite foods makes him open up. I still have to be careful not to ask too many questions, but we connect much better when there is food involved.
Small children love to tell their parents everything, I believe that teenagers like to share things as well, but it has to be on their terms. For me, it’s been shopping with our daughter and eating with our son, not necessarily the activities I would have chosen, but in the end, all that matters is that we connect and communicate.