Riley is in her room most of the time, and when she's not, she's got her nose buried in her phone. I can always tell when she wants something, because she actually approaches me or my wife. Otherwise, she's quite aloof.
When I ask her a question or try to find out about her day, she responds with as little effort as possible. Just a year and a half ago if I asked her how her day went, she'd respond with, "It was fine." Last year she started counting words and would respond, "Okay." Six months ago, she was down to syllables, "Good." Today, she just nods her head up... as if a nod up even answers the question, but she's figured out how to respond with even less effort.
But, here's where my story gets interesting. I needed help styling my wig for this year's Halloween costume. I'm going as a superhero with very specific hair. I ordered a special wig for this hero, and it came smashed in its package, and the wig looked like a pair of weasels nesting upon my head when I put it on.
Riley is all about make-up, hair and fashion. So, last weekend I asked her if she would help reshape my wig in preparation for Halloween. She said she would, and it was a magical time. I must have been in her room for a good 20 to 30 minutes. She brushed, hair sprayed, gelled, and snipped at my $16.99 faux locks, and we talked. We actually talked.
Riley struggled because the wig was in pretty bad shape. She was frustrated because she couldn't get it to do what she wanted, but this was her wheelhouse. Although she was unable to do what she wanted, she was "unable" in her area of expertise, her passion: hair styling.
I was able to find our common ground, ground where she put effort into communicating with me, ground where she didn't mind having me around.
Teens can be tough, but they still have passions. If we can tap into these passions as parents, we can stay connected to these creatures who are making this transition from childhood to adulthood... with as little effort as possible (them, not us).