Sorry to be late. My granddaughter has a fever. Nothing serious. Maybe 99 point something. Also, this isn’t my computer; I’m using my wife’s computer. So her name is showing up in the Zoom. Not my name. Her name is Peggy. But my name is Bob. So my computer screen says “Peggy Williams” but it should say “Bob Williams.” I just wanted to make that clear, let everyone know.
Having already attended as many Zoom meetings today as there are grains of sand on all the beaches in all the world, the above remarks are enough to make me consider a career in living in the forest with the nearest Internet connection a three-day canoe journey over a piraña-infested waterfall away. How is it possible that our co-workers still don’t get it, that every vacuous, off-point, meaningless comment delays any possible work that might be accomplished? Unless a significant portion of your body is in flames, the only acceptable remarks during a Zoom meeting are “I defer to the will of the majority” and “sounds good to me!”
To force dozens of your contemporaries to wait while you speak of that which is applicable to only a few of them and attractive to even fewer is—in these short-tempered Covid days—a great offense. Not to improve on Helen Gurley Brown who said, “never fail to know that if you are doing all the talking, you are boring somebody,” but when staring into those tiny rectangular pictures of your co-workers, if you are doing almost any talking you are boring—to a first approximation--everyone.
When my kids were little, I had the pleasure of teaching a “How to Help your Kids Love Learning Math” Class to parents at their school. Eight well meaning moms and dads joined me in an empty classroom where we played with dice, talked about Pascal’s triangle, and shared stories of how our little ones were enjoying number concepts. Except one of the parents who chattered incessantly about growing up in Venezuela, math classes taken in college, disappointments with the curriculum at the school, disagreements with administrators, pretty much any random thought. After listening for much of the Pleistocene, I pointed out that there were eight of us and that therefore, if this parent spoke for more than one eighth of the time, that someone else would thereby be relegated to speaking for less than one eighth of the time. It was a class about teaching math after all.
The parent who had been talking incessantly hasn't spoken to me since.
And I am totally fine with that.
Speaking of whose turn it is to talk, how much do your kids get to have their say across ages and stages? What is it that they are trying to communicate, do you think? Like the excruciatingly dull person referenced above, are you, the parent, sucking all the air out of the room?
Just as “do you want to dance?” seldom means just “do you want to dance?” any more than “would you like to have a cup of coffee?” has anything to do with caffein, does “clean your room” convey if you don’t have the skills to put away clean laundry you will be living here at home forever incapable of finding employment implying that I have failed as a parent?
One of my running buddies sells cars. He says the four most important words in any negotiation are shut the f*** up. After the salesperson has named a price for a car, every word the salesperson speaks costs them a hundred dollars.
Arbitration aside, there is an unending tirade of superfluous N-O-I-S-E even in these Covid-infused times. Advertisements pop up when and where they are least wanted. Stimulus is as ubiquitous as it is overwhelming. I can barely keep my ears from detonating off my head during a Zoom call. Kids need some silence, a chance to speak up should they choose.
I am not suggesting which fraction of the conversation your children should be allowed (encouraged?) to achieve. But if your teenagers are surly and unresponsive, it might be in your interest to know why. Being as quiet as you can for as long as you can might be the first step in allowing them to express their concerns. Telling them, I’m here if you want to talk is a good step. Being present and silent might be an even better one.
All appearances to the contrary, your kids do want to talk to you. If you can be quiet long enough, there's no telling what they might say, what you might learn, how much deeper your connection with your kids might be.