Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On Lessons in Futility

So I live in a house with three boys —which is ironic to say the least since I spent the majority of my career as a communications specialist. It’s like God’s playing some gigantic, humbling joke at my expense. “An expert, huh? Here’s a husband and two sons – see what you can do with that!”

On a near daily basis, my 20-month-old comes running up to me in earnest as he says, (I’m paraphrasing, of course), “mmfr-ppffft-zzzah-uumph, doe.” I feel like Marlin, the Dad fish in that scene from “Finding Nemo” where he was getting explicit instructions from a young sea turtle as to how to navigate the East Australian Current without injuring himself. Just before he was sucked into the vortex of 30 million cubic meters of warm seawater traveling at up to 4 knots per second, he said in frustrated oblivion, “You’re really cute, and I’m sure you’re saying something important, but I can’t understand a wooooord…”

Anyway, it went something like that. And for me, it usually goes something like this: Cameron utters something unintelligible all the while looking very cute and confident that he’s a genius, and I respond with a wide-eyed, “Really?” chock full of faux enthusiasm since I have no idea what he’s talking about. He excitedly nods his head, and then believing that we’re in synch quickly moves to his next endeavor which inevitably involves something I would have never agreed to had I truly been in on the arrangement — for instance, dunking my favorite decorative pillow in a tub of water until he was certain he’d killed it. These sessions, I’m totally convinced are all part of his master plan to ultimately claim my sanity. It’s very possible, in fact, that he’s just pretending he can’t talk. Just a theory.

Then there’s my five-year-old, “Mars” man in the making. Everyday I attempt to get a true read on what’s going on in his head, but I’m equally unsuccessful at solving the puzzle.

Me: “Jack, how was school?”
Jack: “Awesome!”
Me: “Great! What was so awesome about it?”
Jack: “I don’t know, it was just awesome.”
Me: “Yea, you, uh, said that.”

And by the way, I also have approximately 150 daily report sheets from his teacher saying, “Today at school, Jack said he felt: “awesome.”

I have to admit, I had big plans that one day I’d hear a gush of compliments from my future daughters-in-law, thanking me profusely for raising men who were not only in touch with their feelings but really knew how to express them. Well, girls, it’s been five years and I haven’t made much progress. I’m not completely ready to throw in the towel, but I am sure that the concept upon which I essentially built a whole career leaves me totally unqualified when trying to navigate the murky waters of the male psyche. I can help any company successfully launch a product, but I have no idea if my son is happy at school or if he goes just because he has no choice.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I’d been married to my husband for two years before I found out that he not only studied fine art, but had a deep appreciation for it. And even then, it was just by chance. On a trip to New York, we visited the Museum of Modern Art when, out of the blue he starts pontificating about the artist’s technique and meaning like he was an authority on the subject. Of course, I just stared at him like an alien had inhabited his body and said something brilliant, like “wha?” I suppose it keeps our marriage interesting. I never really know who’s going to walk in the door. That being said, I’m still holding on to the hope that one day it will be an eccentric millionaire who’s just been keeping up our thirteen-year budget bound charade to ensure I really loved him for him.

So maybe the only really effective communication strategy when it comes to boys is patience – not at the top of my list of virtues, but definitely in the mix. I just have to hope that all the men in my life will spill their guts when they’re good and ready. And when they do, I’ll be listening. And while I harbor this decidedly female wish to know everything my boys are feeling deep down in their souls, on the occasions when all four of us are cuddling on the couch —not a word between us—I think talking is definitely overrated.