“So, what happened at school today?” we say with sincere interest.
“Nothing,” they answer, before scurrying off to their rooms or changing the car stereo to something that passes for music in only the most rudimentary sense.
“That’s it … ‘Nothing?’”
And thus the rest of the afternoon plunges into parent-teenager silence, broken only by the call to dinner, the nagging about homework, the reminders of bedtime and the reciprocal grunts of displeasure aimed at our mere existence.
As parents, these conversations feel like interrogations — only more desperate.
Unlike our moody counterparts, we actually want to be engaged, to be addressed, to have eye contact (sans eye-rolling). We really want to know. It’s a jumping-off point that might lead to other revelations.
But that question — “So, how was school?” — never gets us anything but ignored.
And yet we take their answers at face value, often fearing that they might actually tell us something that happened.
For those of you raising teenaged Divas, that can only mean one thing … drama.
“Oh I heard (insert current female middle-school nemesis’ name here) talking about me in the hall, and I was like, ‘Sorry … what did you say? You’d better just keep your mouth shut ‘cause nobody cares what you think anyway.’ And then she just stared at me, lookin’ all stupid, then I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I thought.’”
That’s when we regret asking in the first place.
But otherwise it’s all a futile exercise.
Like a dog chasing a parked car, it never goes anywhere, and we just end up with a headache.
Imagine my surprise when, the day after picking up The Diva from school, I was confronted with a rather unsettling headline on the front page of the Columbus-Ledger Inquirer.
(In case you’re new to this column, the Buckners live in Columbus, Ga.)
“Woman confronts daughter’s ‘bullies’ in cafeteria: Mother charged with battery after police say she barged into school, poked eighth-grade girl.”
Huh … What!
Uh, The Diva goes to (that school which shall not be named for safety’s sake), where she is in the eighth grade and, yes, eats lunch in the cafeteria.
What else had she neglected to mention? That after getting into an impromptu rap battle with Emenim, Lil’ Wayne, fresh out of prison and craving tater tots, asked her to pass the ketchup?
Or that while putting the finishing touches on her science fair project that measured the viscosity of slime or laundry detergent booster, she and her lab partner accidentally stumbled across the cure for cancer?
“Nothing.” That’s what happened at school today, “nothing?”
No crazed woman stormed into the lunchroom, cussing up a blue streak, calling out the girls who’d been picking on her daughter and poking them in the forehead with her finger? The cops weren’t called, arrests weren’t made, statements weren’t given by the assaulted?
Makes you wonder what an exciting day at school would be like.
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com.