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Getting My Son to Talk to Me Was Impossible, Until I Made One Change

brighton beach

My 16-year-old son and my 8-year-old daughter talk incessantly. I know everything that is going on in their minds.

My 11-year-old son, however, is the strong, silent type. (Well, not very strong actually, he is way below the national average on push-ups.) I never know what he’s thinking—or what he’s plotting. (I know that he’s plotting because of the vaguely evil glint in his eyes. And because when I ask him what he’s doing, he answers, “Plotting.” But he refuses to elaborate.)

This summer, in addition to plotting, my son will be taking Vagonova Method inspired dance classes at the Brighton Theater and School of Russian Ballet. Brighton Theater and School of Russian Ballet is located in Manhattan Beach, about two miles from where my parents live in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Most people take the bus. It’s a straight shot. But you know how cheap I am. So my son and I walk. Forty-five minutes there. Forty-five minutes back. We consider it his warm up and cool down.

And an amazing thing has happened. When my son walks, he apparently talks!

Boy, does he talk!

READ: My Sons Grow Farther Apart Every Day

He talks about his plan to start a multi-million dollar computer company (and/or take over Google by hacking in to view their source code). He is then going to use his money to lay underground pipes to bring fresh water to famine-plagued areas in Africa and harness ocean waves for electricity. Finally, he will become powerful enough to pass laws requiring everyone to use the metric system, cancel Daylight Savings Time, and outlaw time travel (though he’s been wavering, lately, regarding the latter). Oh, and he will never cut his hair.

He also asks questions. So. Many. Questions.

Why do they always increase security after a shooting? Will Iran really bomb Israel since the fall-out will likely be blown their way? Isn’t it funny that when the New Horizons Probe was launched nine years ago Pluto was a planet, and now it’s not? Why do we have school grades based on age and not on how much people know? What conducts electricity better, silver or gold (that’s for his harness the waves project)? And does a period and a closed parentheses make a Cyclops emoji? (See: .) )

He talks non-stop, barely pausing for breath, his voice getting higher and higher as he races to the end of a sentence until he sounds like the character of Six from everybody’s favorite 1990s sitcom, “Blossom.”

READ: Letting My Daughter Talk to Strange Men

Now, I don’t know if it’s because, during our walks, he isn’t book-ended on both sides by his very talkative older brother and younger sister and can finally get a word in edge-wise, or if there is something about walking in particular that loosens his tongue.

I’ve heard parents say they get the same when they’re in the car with their kids, or while cooking alongside them. There seems to be something about not looking a person in the eye, but rather staring straight ahead, that facilitates candid conversations. Have you found that to be true at your house?

I didn’t give my son’s predilection for opening up while moving much thought, until my mother said something that surprised me.

Because we’re staying with them in Brighton Beach, my mother and I try to get a walk in along the water’s edge every morning (before the sun comes out; we are very pasty people).

One day, she told me, “When people ask what’s new with Alina, I tell them, I don’t know—I’ll find out when we walk. It’s the only time she ever tells me anything.”

READ: My Middle Schooler Says He’s ‘Fine,’ but Is He Really?

I didn’t realize I was doing that. I thought I was a pretty open person. (I mean, I write about my family for a living, how much more open can you be?) But I guess the stuff my mother really wants to hear, that stuff doesn’t come out until we’re walking along the beach (one mile to Coney Island, one mile back), not looking at each other.

Maybe it’s genetic?

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