When my kids and I are in the van we like to listen to the radio. First we talk about whatever's on our minds. This is a great way to hear about what matters most to them. We tend to do a lot of talking when we drive, but when we're all talked out, we tune in to our favorite station. And when we hear a favorite song, we crank it up.
Now, we could drive five miles or forty miles with the volume at a decent level and my eight-year old son hasn't got a thing to say. But the very minute we crank it up he desperately has to talk to me. It never fails.
Like today in the van. My eleven-year old twin daughters and I are belting out a top country hit. My son likes it, too, and he's singing along with us. Then, suddenly: "Momma? Momma? Momma? Momma? Momma? Momma...."
I turn off the radio.
"Awww!" I hear from the tweens in the back row. But, who knows? If I ignore my kid, this might be the moment that haunts him into adulthood that he has to relive with a therapist at seventy-five dollars an hour. So I play it cool and patient and answer with great interest.
"What, John Daniel?"
"Do they drive on the left side of the road in Australia?"
Where'd that come from? "Yes." I pause to see if he has any more questions. I remind myself that encouraging a child's curiosity can broaden their horizons; it can possibly re-direct their future to a whole new higher plateau. "Why did you want to know, JD?"
"Why did I want to know what?"
Be patient... "Why were you asking about Australia, hon?"
"I don't know."
And this is what I get for trying to be a good parent.
I crank it back up.
Ten seconds later: "Momma? Momma? Momma? Momma? Momma? Momma...."
I snap off the radio. "WHAT?"
"John Daniel!" His sisters are losing patience and I'm right behind them.
"What! What already?" He isn't even fazed.
"When I was playing outside?"
"Well, I...(mumble, mumble, mumble)." By now I'm sure I could interpret monkey chatter better than decipher whatever it is my son is slurring in the seat behind me. How does his teacher even understand him?
"I chipped my thumb nail."
"Is it all right?"
That was the big news? No bleeding? No broken bones?
I crank it up and we catch the last chorus. The girls and I are really belting it out now and I turn it up even higher to drown out my son.
But he's persistent.
"Shut up John Daniel!" his sisters chide.
"I have to tell Momma something!"
I pretend I don't hear a thing, but my conscience needles me. It sounds a lot like my son.
"What, John Daniel?"
"When I press my forehead on the window I get a brain freeze."
"You made me turn off the radio so you could tell me that?" Why did I even leave the house today?
"That was a good song. Can you play it again?"