Authentically Disinterested

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I ran into a friend who I see every few months and we stood together for a while to catch up because there was still snow on the ground the last time I saw her. She had two of her three young kids in tow and I had heard that she just returned from a conference. It seemed to me that she had had a very busy summer. 

I asked her about her conference and she went off for about ten minutes about her work that doesn’t really interest me too much. But I paid attention and listened intently as she droned on about the stuff she sells. She seemed happy and that’s all that really mattered to me. 

Then, turning to her daughter, it hit me that her daughter had recently turned 10 years old. Ten is a huge milestone so we chatted about that for a few minutes. Her daughter said they had a quiet evening with cake and presents that she thoroughly enjoyed. I was genuinely excited for that sweet 10 year old girl. It’s not everyday you go from a one-digit age to a two-digit age! 

And then I asked her son what his plans were for the winter. My friend didn’t even give her son a chance to say anything before she interrupted and pointedly explained that her son will be starting hockey next month. He’s a shy kid, doesn’t say very much to people he doesn’t know well, but he told me he really wanted to play on a specific team. Before he could finish his sentence, his mom cut him off and said, “we’ll talk about that later.” I looked down at him and gave him a smile that I’m sure looked pathetic. 

Then I asked the kids if they were excited for school to start for another year. My friends daughter nodded happily while her son shrugged. Trying to include my own son in the conversation, I asked him if he was excited for school and he smiled and said yes. My friend gave my son a passive smile and then asked if I had gone to the funeral of a mutual friend recently. I barely got the word, “no” out of my mouth before she cut me off to tell me about who she bumped into while she was there. 

Exhausted with the conversation that had lasted the better part of a half hour, I explained that we should get going because we still had a lot to do before dinner. She nodded and looked at her watch then told me a laundry list of things she had to do before the end of the day too. 

We said goodbye, I waved at the kids, telling them it was great to see them again, and then my son and I walked away. 

As I went over the conversation in my mind, I realized that my friend didn’t ask us about our summer, wonder about our winter plans, or include my son in any of the discussions. The entire conversation was all about her and her family. She didn’t ask my son any questions, she didn’t ask about my job, and she didn’t wonder at all if we might see each other throughout the hockey season with the kids. It was literally all about her. 

And then I wondered, why am I even friends with people like that? 

I remembered the smile of pride on her daughters face when I mentioned her tenth birthday, and the mischievous grin her son gave me when we talked about his up-coming hockey season, and I realized the answer to my own question. 

It’s all about the kids. 

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