Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Alley Gene

raingutter regatta

One of the very worst things about being a parent is the moment you realize that your children have inherited your worst qualities, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Cole has my temper. Rylan is stu-u-u-u-born. And Eli is an Alley.

Eli has been having a hard time adjusting to the return to school. Somehow, he ended up in a class without any of the friends he made over the past two years. I suggested that he try making some new friends. He gave me a gloomy look. I said, "Find someone you might want to make friends with, and try to talk to them."

His already big eyes grew even bigger. Talk to them?

I immediately recognized what he was feeling. You see, we Alleys are not much for talking. If you hit on the right subject, we have plenty to say, but in general, talking is a waste of breath. We like to be doing the things we like to do, not talking about them, and often we have trouble coming up with something to say.

For most of my life, this quality has been a major crutch. Most people like to talk. If you don't like to talk, it's hard to make friends. First dates are utter misery. Social gatherings are extremely awkward. Don't even get me started on high school.

At 33 years old, I still dread small talk. I can do it if I have to, but it doesn't come naturally to me. It's something I had to learn, and I've often thought that my life would have been so much easier if I'd been able to learn it sooner - if someone had sat me down as a child and said, "This is how you start a conversation and make friends."

So I did just that with Eli. I told him that I know talking isn't fun, but you can't make friends to do things with until you've learned what they like to do, and that means you have to talk to them. I said that the easiest way to have a conversation with someone is just to keep asking questions. Then I made him start a conversation with me and try to keep it going. Finally, I said, "Tomorrow, I'm going to ask you who you talked to, so don't forget."

The next day when I picked him up from school, he reminded me right away. "Today I talked to Felix," he reported.

"What did you talk about?" I asked.

"What he likes to do."

"What does he like to do?"

Eli sheepishly admitted, "Actually, we didn't talk. We just played together."

At least I'll be able to empathize with him when he goes on his first date.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, that is one of my genes too. It must be recessive since it obviously skipped Michael. I feel for Eli.


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