(How God used hunting zombies with my son to resurrect our relationship)
My boy was always talkative. He was born that way. Oozing with pride and dripping with first-time mama details, I spoke to my grandmother over the phone. Two states between us, her opportunity to snuggle her first great grand baby wouldn’t arrive for months. She asked if I could put my Bean on the phone with her. So, he could hear her voice. I obliged and then implored my 3-week-old bundle, “Can you say hi, Beanie?” No fibbing, the infant squeaked and cooed at the receiver. The long-distance shrieks of delight, from the other line, startled him. But there was no doubt, Bean had spoken. The chatter swelled from that moment onward.
At 17 months, Bean accompanied me on Christmas shopping trips and had a commentary and a critique about every purchased gift. We spent evenings with relatives, listening to Bean give elaborate, descriptive if a perhaps a bit disjointed, speeches. He made up stories. He produced poetry. He sang. Words, words, words. New. Old. More and more words. It never stopped. His sweet small voice followed me everywhere. Until he was 12. Even then, speeches were still spewed sporadically but they were loaded with accusation and angst, annoyance and aggravation. There were still many tender whispers but the space between them was heart-wrenching. At least for me. And I couldn’t help but wonder, was this conversational cold front hurting him, as well? Our connection was in flux, and that was fine, but we hadn’t yet found our new normal. And it was alienating us both.
One day, after a bout of belligerence, mine, I was shaken and scared. I wanted these shouting matches to end. I wanted to be with my son. I wanted to be a safe space for his secrets. I wanted him to know I cared even if things were weird. I washed my tear lined face and decided I was just going to be near Bean. I didn’t have to be in his face just near his space. I deliberately prayed for strength. The strength to let go. The strength to give Bean to God. And then, I walked quietly into his room. Sat on the floor. And played with Legos.
After a few minutes, Bean’s breath grew more natural. The anger had left. His face calmed. His heart softened. And he talked. He built his spaceship and I fiddled with mini-figures. And he talked. I sat nodding and he searched for 2×4 and 6×6 blocks. And he talked. He didn’t delve into the matter of the moment. He didn’t relive our conflict. He didn’t give away his most private thoughts. But he talked. And I listened and praised God.
Episodes like this came at random. But they acted as a salve in our communication. I pondered why but didn’t wait to discover the formula. I just kept doing it. Then at a CHEA convention, I attended a Rhonda Stoppe seminar. My eyes burst from my face when she explained that women communicate best when face to face and men do so better when working side by side. EUREKA! I understood. Legos were my boys “work” and I had entered into it beside him. Thus, the newfound moments of bonding.
But my boy is no longer 12. Legos still entertain but aren’t the same. Enter in Minecraft. Blocks and cubes. Mines and ore. Sheep and pigs. Sitting side by side, controllers in hand, we build something together. (Or sometimes blow it up!) And we share. And the conversation is growing. What was once movies and toys has grown into books and homework assignments. Sometimes glimmers of dreams and plans for the future sneak in while Steve and Alex dodge creepers. Here’s my favorite part, because these intentional times have made our discourses more comfortable, the conversation doesn’t always stop when the console is powered down. It leaks into daily life. Drives in the car become doctrinal debates. Shopping trips turn into stories of science fiction variety. Asking for help with school work is easier because with the fear of judgment is lessened. Bean knows I’m more interested in hearing his thought process than worrying if he’s getting every answer correct. Our relationship is perfect. Perfectly flawed. Perfectly weird. Perfectly ours. We’re bonding as we’re giving one another space to grow. (As I am letting him be him, the man-child not the infant.) Hard times come. Fights happen. Forgiveness isn’t always easy. Jesus handles the heart. Prayer casts our cares. And Minecraft gets us talking. Perhaps…even one day… hopefully far off… we’ll talk about girls.
Try it. Dare to be discontent with the divide but don’t be demanding. Meet your boy in his area of interest and just be. The mom who’s thick skinned. The mom who’s tenderhearted. The mom who’s there. The mom who’s listening. Enjoy being the Minecraft mom.