"C ome sit in the front with me.” There was a flicker of a moment in which Daniel seemed to perk up. I might’ve imagined it, but he made his way around the car and seated himself next to me.

I wasn’t sure what to say. Of course I wanted to yell at him, to shake him up, but that’s probably not what Dr. Spock would recommend. It was quiet. I was the adult, I had to start the conversation. Could I pretend nothing happened? No, that would just be idiotic and irresponsible.

“Wanna talk about it?” I finally said.

He shrugged.

I was parallel parking in front of our house when he finally started. “I hate—”

Seriously kid, I’m parallel parking here, couldn’t you wait two minutes for the great confession?

“I hate—” he repeated.

I stopped parking, car on an angle, blocking traffic should any car come down the street. He paused like he was struggling. “Everything.”

I thought it was a little lame, but really sad, too.

“Everything? That’s a lot of things to hate. Can you be more specific?”

He looked like he was thinking, so I added, “While you sort out your thoughts, I’ll finish parking here.” He laughed at that. Which was a good thing, right?

I parked, we got out, walked up the front walk, and as I fumbled to find the right key, he started again.

“It’s just that…”

Couldn’t he wait till we were inside? He must’ve read my mind, or felt my vibes, because he stopped and waited till I found the key and we were inside and settled on the couch.

“Yes?” I prompted.

“I know I’m not stupid. But I have no idea what’s going on in class. I didn’t learn the stuff these guys learned already.”

“Okay,” I said slowly. A tutor could remedy that.

“And I had such good friends before. I know I can make new ones, I just don’t want to.”

Ha, at least he knows he can.

“I hear that, but that doesn’t explain the black eye.”

“That wasn’t on purpose. I don’t even know how it happened. I was almost friends with some of those guys.”

“So what happened?”

“They were talking about something we learned in class, and one kid asked me a question. I had the same question in class, but I felt stupid asking because I wasn’t sure if I was only asking because I didn’t know enough. I told the kid I didn’t know and Wachtel snorted at me, so I punched him.”

“Helpful.”

“Whatever.”

What was I supposed to tell the kid? I totally heard where he was coming from. He just lost himself, happens to us all, albeit sans fists. I could tell him he behaved inappropriately.

I did. He relaxed and even gave me a small smile. “I’m sorry, Ma,” he said. Wait, did that mean I got through to him? (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 559)