Experts recommend conversing with your children in the car, when they're at ease (minimal eye contact!) and likely to open up to you. This is a good tactic with Sabrina, once I make her put away her phone. It is wondrous to do with Max, because we are now capable of conversing.
"Don't you love living here?" I ask as we drive around our neighborhood. It's beautiful this time of year, particularly the cherry blossoms in various shades of pink.
"No!" he says. "Florida!"
Max would like to move to Florida, he's been telling us.
"Ah, yes," I say "You would like to move to Florida."
"Yes," he acknowledges.
We are not alone in the car. The ghost of Max's past is right there in the backseat. When Max was a tot, it pained me not to hear babbling in the back seat. I remain grateful for our chats on the road.
"Max, would you like to live there alone when you grow up or with someone else?" I ask.
"Someone else," he says.
"Like a friend?" I ask.
"Although you also want to get married, right?" I note.
"Yes!" He names a girl in his class he has a crush on.
"OK, but maybe it's too soon to know if she will want to marry you, so maybe there will be another nice girl," I say.
He ponders that.
"Who will help you if Mommy and Daddy aren't there to help you?" I ask.
We're at a stoplight. I watch his face.
"I don't know," he says, and my heart twinges. Because he is a teen, he wants to be independent and he is becoming increasingly aware of what's holding him back.
"Max, if you want to live on your own, you need to learn how to do things on your own, like take a shower and use the bathroom," I say.
"Yes!" he agrees.
I know Dave and I need to keep encouraging and enabling him. It's all too easy to do things for Max, especially when he resists doing them himself because it's hard. Still, he's becoming more self-motivated.
"Will you miss us when you move to Florida?" I ask.
"Yes!" he says, happily.
And I kind of love that he's all ready to move away.