Monday, March 29, 2010

Riding in cars with boys

Anyone with teenage boys knows that getting information out of them is like pulling teeth. One would think I was asking them to give up State secrets when I ask the simplest of questions.

How was your day? Fine.

Did you have a good practice? Yeah.

Who all was at so and so's house? I dunno. A lot of people.

What did you do? Chilled.

Sometimes, a shrug and a vague noise is all you get, so a multi-word answer, or even a multi-syllabic answer, is an achievement. The exceptions, of course, are when the teenage boy is inconvenienced, has created a problem he needs you to solve, or he wants something.

My solution? Eavesdropping. And the best place to eavesdrop is the car.

I know, I know. Eavesdropping is a morally gray area. Before you think ill of me, let me remind you that knowledge is power, and when responsible for the well-being a of a teenager, you need all the knowledge you can get. I wasn't really aware of how much I eavesdropped until my eldest got his driver's license. The sudden dearth of information had me trying to figure out why. I realized it was because I was no longer hauling all of his friends to school, to practice, to the movies, or wherever it was they wanted to go. Thankfully, I still have a year before my youngest starts driving.

When you put two or more boys in the car with you, you become invisible. If you keep your mouth shut and stay invisible, you find out all kinds of interesting things.

Kid 1: Did you know tomorrow is pretty girl's birthday?

Kid 2: (Chuckling) No. I don't have clearance for that kind of information. I'm lucky if I get a nod in the hall.

Kid 1: As long as you're dating pretty girl 2, you never will.

A long conversation ensued about who liked whom and who was in the right crowd to get an invitation to pretty girl's birthday party. It was an information gold mine.

Sometimes, I can't keep from laughing, and it either shuts them down or encourages them.

Kid 1: Mrs. Teacher went off the other day in class. I've never seen her like that before.

Kid 2: What happened?

Kid 1: She opened the window and there were ducks outside quacking.

Kid 2: She went off because ducks were quacking?

Kid 1: No. She went off because Goofball kid answered the ducks every time they quacked.

Kid 2: Huh?

Kid 1: Yeah. The duck went (quacking noise) and the kid went (quacking noise) and then the ducks got mad and then Mrs. Teacher just went off.

At this point, I couldn't help myself. The combination of the sound effects and the visual image of the teacher (who is my good friend) losing it over the ducks cracked me up. When Kid 1 realized he was entertaining me, he went into a five minute comedy routine on the antics of Goofball Kid in Mrs. Teacher's class. My son joined in, and I finally got a real answer to "How was your day?"

There are days when I can't wait for young son to get his license, those days when I've made 3 trips back and forth to school and driven all over the county to chauffeur him to this friend or that friend's house. Then I hear him talking about a friend's first date and first kiss (yes, I'm that invisible sometimes), and I mourn the day I won't be riding in cars with boys.


  1. Amongst a group of writers you never have to apologise for eavesdropping. ;-) The reluctance to hand over information is a good insight for when we create male teen characters.

  2. Thanks Charmaine! I read YA, but I've never tried my hand at writing it. I think I spend so much time with teenagers that when I write, I want to spend time with adult characters.

  3. This was too funny and bought back some fond and not so fond memories of my daughter as a teen. My 3 year old grandson talks nonstop, but I know he’ll be a teenager all too soon so I’ll pass along the eavesdropping hint.