A happy child enters my car and slams the door.
“So, how was school?” I ask. I am cautiously optimistic for a response.
With one word, the battle begins. The mines are buried. I know I will trip every one.
“Just fine? Can you tell me more?” No pressure. Tread lightly here. “ I just want to know what you do for eight hours a day without me.”
Silence from the passenger seat.
“Did you learn anything?” I venture cautiously.
“Well, my friend likes this one girl, and last week he didn’t, but now he does.”
“That’s nice. Did you learn anything, say, academic?”
“I don’t remember.”
Defensive positions by the opposition. I am ready for this. I return to neutral territory.
“OK. How was lunch?” I ask. Lunch, packed by me, is usually safe. “Did you have a good lunch?”
“Yeah. I shared my ketchup but a little bit of milk got in it.”
I don’t even care where the milk came from, or if it was his. He is talking to me. I venture further, and step on a landmine. “Little like a few drops or little like the whole box?”
“I don’t knoooooooowwwwww.” The bottom lip starts to quiver.
Evasive maneuvers — change the subject. “OK. How was PE?” He likes PE.
“What did you do?”
“You know, stuff.”
I take a deep breath and jump into the minefield. Mothers know, this really should not be attempted while driving.
“What about spelling?” I ask bravely.
“What?” He would much rather ignore me, but my pursuit is dogged.
“Spelling? What did you learn about your spelling words today?” I persist.
“I don’t remember. Can we not talk about this?” He crosses his arms and turns away from me to stare out the window.
Seriously? You’re 9, not 19. What’s wrong with this? I don’t dare voice that thought out loud.
I don’t text while driving; I operate battle stations. My target is the back of my son’s head, which is all I can see when he’s turned away from me.
“Well, what about science? You love science.”
“We didn’t even DOOOOOOO science today!”
“I’m sorry. I know you like science. I’m sorry you had to miss it.”
“Yeah, we had to do [insert random unintelligible words] earthworm.”
“Earthworm?” Desperately latching onto something that sounds science-y. “You studied something about an earthworm?”
“We read a book.”
“You read a book about earthworms?”
“Yeah.” The ‘duh, you idiot,’ may not be spoken, but it is more than implied.
“Well, earthworms are living, and that’s science. That’s cool.”
“Mom, it was a book. Books aren’t science.”
It’s rather hard to refute this logic.
“Mom, where’s my snack?”
How could I forget the key ingredient in my arsenal? “I got you chocolate chip cookies.”
Mothers in the 60s could always get their kids to open up with a snack of cookies and milk. However, no one told my son about Leave it to Beaver. However, he is very polite about the cookies.
“Thanks, Mom. This is the best cookie I ever had!”
There has been no advance on the son who is not my enemy. And I won’t bother to point out to him that I still have no idea what he has been through during his eight hours at school. I feel like I have been dodging landmines set by friendlies, and I am mentally and emotionally exhausted. I hate this game. The problem is, my son loves this game. If I’m going to win the war on parenting, this battle must be given over to him. So I’m sitting down, buckled up, and trying not to ask too many questions. My white flag is in the air. And sometimes, I will learn something — if I listen between the crumbs.