When the children were little I wished they came with instructions.
I realize that was a very silly wish. They don't listen to instructions, and I never read them.
They are both teenagers now and I know what I really need is some sort of Rosetta Stone for teen speak. Or teen non-speak, as the case may be.
The Princess is getting easier to understand. I'm not sure whether that is because she is quickly approaching the end of her teenage years, or because I have some personal experience with teenage girl speak. She may not want to believe it, but I once was a teenage girl myself. It's like they say: if you learn a language as a child, you never completely forget it. Teenage girl and adult girl also have some common linguistic components.
I remember, or have learned, that a girl-child can change the meaning of the word “Mother” simply by changing which syllable is emphasized (“MO-ther” vs. “moth-ER”). Likewise, the volume, tone and spoken length of any individual sound (“Mmmmmmmmother” vs. “Motherrrrrrr” for example) can be altered to adjust the meaning.
Teenage girl non-verbal communication is just as, if not more, complicated. The simple eye roll can have many and varied meanings, from “I can't believe you're such a dork,” to “of course I love you.” Sometimes it can have more than one meaning simultaneously.
When it comes to The Little Prince, however, I am completely at a linguistic loss. Yo no hablo boy-o.
The Little Prince has become a surly foreign exchange student skulking about our house, leaving his room only to procure food (to take back to his room) or to scowl at the printer. He speaks an undocumented dialect of an unrecorded language that, for all of its complexity apparently consists of only three phrases: “Uh-huh" (affirmative?), "Nuh-uh" (negative?), and "Dunno" (everything else). His eye rolls, shoulder shrugs and grunts are in a dialect that is completely different than his sister's.
Last night, when I returned from a four-day absence, I stood, smiling, in his doorway waiting for a “Hi, Mom! Welcome back.” What I got was an impatient “Yeah?”
I hugged him anyway.
It's hard to believe that this towering stranger, with facial hair and deepening voice was once my cuddly, little boy. OK, so he was never that cuddly, but he was the little boy I held tight in my mother-arms. The little boy who exactly matched and filled the little-boy shaped space that had been formed in my mother-heart.
Now my head rests against his shoulder on the rare occasion when I am able to ambush him from behind to wrap him up in a tackle/hug. More often than not he turns around and heads the other way when he sees me coming. Much like dogs sense fear, teenage boys sense incoming Mom hugs. Although, sometimes I like to think that his evasive maneuvers are purposefully a step slow, or that he waits an extra beat before attempting an escape, allowing me time to sigh contentedly as that little-boy shaped space fills in once again.
This morning he stopped by my desk as he headed out the door to school. For a moment he just stood there looking at me expectantly.
“Do you need something, honey? ” I asked, my Mom-radar pinging away.
“My laundry basket is overflowing,” he said.
“Well, I'd be happy to teach you...” I started, my temper flaring.
Then I saw the smirk on his face, and I understood him perfectly. No translation was needed.
I love you too, Little Prince.