Last night, I took my nieces to the movies. I sat behind the wheel, trying to think of something to say, but any interesting or funny comments had scattered into the dark corners of my mind. My two nieces were in the back seat, and I could feel them waiting to be entertained. I had nothing, so we drove on in silence.
This is my chronic problem in dealing with children. I never know what to say. Yes, I am a teacher, but dealing with children in a teaching relationship is a completely different dynamic from informal ones. As a teacher, I’m in charge and I have goals (to teach them something and to keep them from destroying themselves or anything around them); there are known roles to fill on both sides of the interaction. In a situation like the one with my nieces, the roles are more ambiguous.
I know I shouldn’t think about it so much. Most kids are easygoing, they assume adults know what they're doing, and they don’t spend time analyzing conversation. I could ask them the easy questions like, “So, what grade will you be in this year?” or, “Are you excited about school?”, but I hear those words come out of my mouth and I want to roll my own eyes.
This is not a problem I have just with children. I never know what to say in conversation with adults, either. When I do say something, it usually leads to regret, so I tend to avoid conversation, and when cornered, I speak as little as possible. In most cases, it leaves people assuming I know more than I really do. Either that, or they think I'm a jerk. I don’t know if I have a clinical phobia, but I’m definitely a little goofy when it comes to social interaction.
All this leaves me wondering two things: 1. Will I be able to converse on a meaningful level with my child, and 2. How can I prevent my child from being like me? Luckily, my wife is in the picture, and that means both things are possible. Like me, my wife claims to never know what to say to most people, but I think she says that just to make me feel better. I’ve seen her carry on a meaningful conversation with a potted plant, and both of them were better off at the end of it. Also, her continued presence in my life is proof that I can have intelligent conversations with some people, even to the point where they’ll find me mentally attractive (at least I think she does). So I’m hoping the daily exposure between my child and me will take some of the edge off the anxiety, and if not, I’ll let my wife do the talking.
83 days until baby.