Last week Lydia and I realized, without a doubt, that our son had been infected by some virus which transformed him into Stereotypical Teenage Male - STM for short. While his responses to questions have never been overly effusive - a trait he inherited from yours truly - Mitchell could at least be counted upon to supply complete answers. That has since changed. Now he is like a POW in an old war movie supplying little more than name, rank and serial number. He has also developed an automatic deflective comeback to what he must see as Lydia's daily interrogations.
"How was your day?" she'll ask.
"Good, how was yours?" he'll reply.
"What did you do?" she'll prod.
"Not much," he'll say, continuing to offer no details. "What about you?"
The next few minutes tend to be an exercise in teeth-pulling as Lydia valiantly attempts to wrest free even a grain of information from our STM. Grudgingly, Mitchell will rattle off his classes but any details are left to the imagination. Were he to write a journal using a similar narrative it would read: "Woke up. Went to school. Came home. Went to bed."
Thanks to Power School on the HRSB website, we are able to keep an eye on Mitchell's marks even if he isn't overly communicative. The school's own website also keeps us up-to-date on events which might otherwise pass undetected. Phone messages from the school's automated system also keep us in the loop.
Occasionally, despite these fail-safes, things do get missed.
"Did you choose your courses for next year?" I asked after we had received a generic voicemail message about the need for students to pick their classes.
"Yes," he replied.
"When?" I wondered.
"A couple of days ago," he answered.
"What did you pick?" Lydia asked. We had talked about the various options but, until then, nothing had been set in stone.
Mitchell, with more than a little prompting, gave us his course selections.
"So, when Mom asked what you did the other day, you could have mentioned this," I suggested.
"She didn't ask," he said.
"She asks every day," I said. I could have used the analogy of a broken record, but decided not to risk it. Lydia might not view this as complimentary. "Besides, you are allowed to tell us stuff without being asked."
Even as I said this, I knew that wouldn't happen for many years to come. What teenager willingly tells their parents anything? It's a parent's duty to dig, probe, and cajole. At least that's how it is when you're dealing with a case of STM.
Kevin Toal is a freelance writer who is warily watching for signs of STF.