I’m watching a mother and son at breakfast, sitting across from each other. The boy is a teenager, probably 16, in jeans, untied sneakers and big hoodie sweatshirt. He’s staring down at his phone. His mom is staring, taking in the memory.
Her head tilts, and she touches his arm, maybe with hope of a conversation.
I am watching my own son perform at the jazz brunch, holding his large stand-up bass like it’s his dance partner. He is 100% viscerally focused in the music; and I am enjoying being able to watch him as well.
She grabs a pen from her purse and writes on his paper placemat. HI, I think; or tic-tac-toe. He glances at it and continues staring and typing on his phone. I’m devastated. Feeling her desire to connect with her son, I want to get up and scold him.
My son, only 20 feet away, looks up as we catch each other’s eyes and smile. I was really glad to be there.
She retreats and stares out the window at the passersby. But what she doesn’t see as she looks out the window is that her son keeps checking on her. He is keenly aware of her every move, and actually takes a few extra seconds watching her as well – but she doesn’t see it.
She grabs her pen and begins to draw on her own placemat. As soon as she does this he reaches out and taps her on the arm and shows her something funny on his phone. She looks and smiles lovingly as they catch eyes, but she continues to draw, leaving him the space he wanted and trusting him to come back to the dance when he’s ready.
At this point it could’ve gone all wrong.
The mom might have forced an initial engagement – muddying his space.
The mom might have refused his reach – well, he refused her first!
Her son might have put up a wall because of her lean into him – he did not.
They could have stayed silent and solitary.
But it doesn’t go wrong. She meets her son where he is at that moment. In the interest of love and trust, she waits. She waits and takes care of herself. Maybe consciously, maybe not.
He glances up and relaxes, somehow sensing that she is allowing his boundaries, open and safe. He puts down his phone, and playfully grabs her pen. I think he makes a tic-tac-toe grid on her placemat, and hands her pen back with a smile.
As she grabs the pen, their breakfast arrives. Not a single word has been spoken yet and it’s really beautiful to watch. As the waitress shows up in front of them, they chat and laugh. They pick off each other’s plates. She kids him with the amount of sugar he pours into his coffee and he teases her pretending he’s about to pour some into hers.
She lifts her eyebrows and points at him with the finger that says “Oh no you don’t!” He laughs, lifts his eyebrows and mocks her by pointing right back. They laugh together.
She reaches out to touch his hand as he curls his fingers around hers. They are staring straight into each other’s eyes smiling.
My own son comes over, drapes his arm around my back, leans in and kisses me on the cheek with a big smile. He sits down across from me. “What’s for breakfast?” I reach over and we hold hands looking directly into each other’s eyes, his big brown eyes with eye lashes to die for, I wonder if he has also been keenly aware of my every move.
Then the waitress breaks our spell as we order our breakfast.