If you have grown kids who have moved out of the house, gone to some faraway place and started a family of their own, you may have experienced “conversation awkwardness,” especially if you are a guy talking to your son. This happens when you are having a conversation and the son is very animated and updates you on all kinds of interesting stuff, after which he lobs the ball back into your court.
“So what’s new with you, dad?”
Well, the fact is that there’s nothing new with you and hasn’t been for about twenty years. You are stuck in a rut deeper than the folds in Trump’s chins, and although you might be able to muster up a news item or two, chances are good that when you reflect on your past week or month, everything seems like it’s been painted with the old unvarying color of same.
“Oh, not much. Same old stuff, really.”
This is a pretty classic dad answer, even if you manage to garnish it with a doodad or two about a bike ride or something you read in the news.
Prepping for conversation
Since re-entering the gladiator ring of Facebag I’ve been super savvy. Before I log on, I take out a notepad and jot down exactly what I’m going to say. Then I go online, type in my update, do a couple of other things, and log off.
Although the idea behind this strategy is self-protection from the Face-abyss (Destroyer once told me I was #socmed bipolar), it occurred to me that this technique might also be, at least in part, a good strategy for kidversations. So before I dialed up my son in Vienna this morning, I jotted down a few notes to prepare myself for the inevitable “What’s new with you, dad?”
The notes are reprinted below for your benefit. Feel free to use them in your next kidversation, or to make up your own.
What’s new with me
“Well, I’ve been baking bread lately, as you know, and I made a little outline so that there would be some give as well as take in the give-and-take. So here’s what’s new with me, son:
- A mostly-bread diet has helped me control my weight. Sounds crazy, but whole grains chock full of seeds and eaten with butter, cheese, and jam fill you up from one meal to the next, so no snacking. [Opportunity for son to express disbelief at this latest quack theory.]
- By baking every day you have way more bread than you can possibly eat, so I’ve been giving it away. It’s fun to give away bread. People seem to like it. [Opportunity for son to express amazement that I would spend so much time doing something and then simply donate it to the bottomless pit charity of cyclist stomachs.]
- Bread is great for cycling. You don’t have to buy candy bars anymore or snacks of any kind. Just wrap up a couple of small bricks with PBJ in tinfoil and you’re good for 100 miles. [Opportunity for son to note that home baking, when you factor in the time, is about 1,000 times more expensive than a Clif bar.]
- Little kids love it. Grandkids and friends’ small children like fresh bread. This is way better than a new video game. [Opportunity for son to openly doubt that small children like gnarly, 281-grain bread with the density of the atmosphere on Venus.]
- Baking everyday is a great part of a healthy morning routine. [Opportunity for son to scoff at having to awake daily at 4:00 AM for anything, ever.]
- Every time you pull a loaf out of the oven it’s exciting to see how it will look. An adventure in every loaf! [Opportunity for son to wonder why, after the first three hundred loaves, you’re still unsure how it’s going to turn out. Competency issues?]
- Bread is a great intersection with all things Germanic. Think Viennese bakeries! Sechskornbrot! [Opportunity for son to point out that you can get all the same recipes by running them through Google Translate without having to mutilate German.]
- Super fun meeting other home bakers, who also happen to be cyclists, and who share your passion for 4:00 AM. [Opportunity for son to doubt that other home bakers are equally unbalanced.]
- Learning how to bake requires dad to avail himself of mom’s baking expertise, which leads to lots of great spousal interactions in the kitchen, teamwork-type stuff. [Opportunity for son to closely question how long this goes on before it leads to an argument.]
- Down with consumerism! Home baking frees you from the shackles of the supermarket’s industrial food chain and Wonder Bread, and you can bake only what you need using basic, organic, healthy ingredients. [Opportunity for son to ask why, if it’s so economical, you make so much you have to give it away, and also have to buy a $500 home grain-mill.]
- Books! Anyone who bakes will eventually buy a library of baking books, and reading is its own highest good. [Opportunity for son to point out how this is more rampant consumerism disguised as education.]
- Travel opportunities for bread bakers abound. Now, each trip abroad can focus on visiting a quaint bakery with some local, historical specialty. [Opportunity for son to note that 10% of global carbon emissions are from tourism.]
- Reducing needless food purchases because good bread goes with everything. [Opportunity for son to note that no, it doesn’t, you’re just on a bread kick now, dad, and will soon tire of it.]
- Home baking is a new hipster trend that has outflanked craft beer and beard care products. Your old man is now on the cutting edge! [Opportunity for son to sigh.]
In the final analysis
As the conversation wrapped up, my son looked at me through the Facetime thingy and smiled, especially after I gave him a tour of the giant 11-gallon buckets filled with flour, seeds, and wheat berries.
“My family is … funny,” he said.
He’s a very literate guy. I’m sure that wasn’t the first adjective that came to mind.
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