I have learned many things in my eighteen years of parenting. I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that even though both my children have sprung from my loins they are very unique individuals.

We were all elated when Kai made it to All-States for percussion. People were telling me it was a great honor and congratulations but honestly even though I provided my children with music lessons for most of their lives I’m not all that familiar with the levels of music in schools. There’s MPA and FBA and All-County and All-State and Superiors, Excellents, etc. It’s taken three years but I finally think I’ve got it down. For the past two years Kai’s music teacher would tell me to bring Kai to this school at this time and I’d say, “okay.” That was that.

The reason I had my kids take piano lessons from the time they were five was because I read it was good for brain development. Also, years ago when I would visit my grandmother in the nursing home I watched residents who could barely walk or even communicate sit down at the piano and play. I wanted to offer the skill to my children because I knew it would benefit them for life.

Back to my story. Kai and I were off to Tampa for three days to attend this music convention called, All-State. I was very excited because I’ve taken many trips with Arielle but hardly any with Kai. It was going to be a mother-son adventure. A great bonding opportunity full of warm fuzzies and heart-to-hearts. Are you laughing? If you are, you probably have sons.

When Arielle and I ride together in the car it is one long gab fest. Hours of conversation about everything from college plans to what color dress she wants to wear for the prom. Twenty minutes into my car ride to Tampa with Kai, he put on his new headphones and turned up his music. Silence.

There I am wondering how I’m going to bond, connect with my son. I decide to ask questions. “Do you want to go to music camp this summer? Are you excited about All-State? Where would you like to eat dinner?” Food is always a good subject. His reply, “Can we go to Carrabbas and mom, you need to stop talking because I can’t hear you through my headphones. I have to take them off every time you ask me a question.” I think I laughed and called him a brat and then told him I was going to continue asking him questions all through the two and half hour car ride just to watch him take his headphones on and off.

When we arrived at the hotel Kai immediately had rehearsal which left me with some alone time. So I did what all writers do. I observed people. There were students and parents all over the hotel having lunch and on breaks from their various rehearsals. I carefully watched other mothers and son’s to see how much conversation was taking place. I needed to know if it was me or if the mother-son relationship is quite different from the mother-daughter relationship.

First, I discovered there was a lot more mother daughter combinations than mother son. And there was a lot of talking going on between the mothers and daughters. Quite often the girls gathered in groups with their mothers. They were all busy gabbing and coming up with creative ways to take photos of each other. Then I watched the father son combination. They were shoving each other in between their brief sentences. Trying their best to make the other fall. There was a lot more physical contact and a lot less verbal interaction.

Finally, I found a mom and son. This was their conversation. Mom: “I got a message from your teacher. You didn’t put your name on your paper. How could you forget to put your name on your paper?” (The teacher in me was laughing. How many times I uttered the phrase… “Put your name at the top of the paper.” and boys especially always seemed to forget.) Son: “I did put my name on the paper.” Mom: Laughing “Obviously you didn’t – your teacher emailed me.” Son: Smiling. “I always put my name on my paper.” He walked away.

Yep, that’s me and Kai to a T. I’m always telling him what he should do or didn’t do. He’s always telling me he will do it (which is code for: I may do it – if I remember) and that he did do it. (Which is code for: I’m saying I did to get you off my back.)

I was relieved to find out we’re normal. But I don’t like the normal very much. I don’t want to be the one who tells him what to do. I want to be the one who shares in his successes and comforts him during his lows. I want to have the same long conversations with him that I have with Arielle. Heck, I’d settle for a twenty minute conversation.

This is the realization that I’ve come to so far for why there is such a difference in my relationship with each of my children. For most of Kai’s existence, I have been the one who has been “telling him” how he should live his life. Basically, I noticed early on that while Arielle had a natural understanding (which is perhaps generally female) of manners, behaviors in school, courtesies, Kai sometimes lacked these skills. Then I realized that “these skills” I’m referring to are female/Krista biased. My husband may have disagreed that Kai lacked certain skills based on the male/Eric perspective. Except I was the one spending most of my time with Kai so naturally I wanted him to learn what I thought was appropriate. I’ve always felt a need to prepare him for… everything.

Now, that Kai is a teenager I can see how all of those years of me “teaching” him has made him see me as a bit of a nag. He probably feels as though I have a correction for everything he does. Add this to his quiet nature and we end up with a silent car ride for two and a half hours.

After our first day together I understood that this was a very different adventure than traveling with Arielle. My children have very different personalities, likes, dislikes and I needed to embrace their differences. Kai had an incredible experience learning from skilled musicians and spent time with his peers. Even though our conversations were brief we shared pizza, cheese sticks, quesadilla’s … gaining five pounds. Then when I sat with his music teacher and principal and listened to him play in the All-State concert I felt honored and proud to be his mom. I understood that even through all of my worrying about our relationship and his properly growing up into an intelligent, kind, young man who always does his homework… on time!, here he was the only one from his school playing his heart out. He’s doing great and the next time I feel a need to correct him I must step back and see the big picture. It’s not my job to tell him how to take every step, it’s simply my job to keep him on the right path and guide him gently.

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