My 12-year-old son is a young man of few words. But I find that when we get to spend some time, just the two of us, he opens up a bit.

Yesterday afternoon, we drove downtown to do just that. We started with sushi at Tamarind, a very fun pan-Asian place I’ve discovered in the south loop. He loved that. We had a leisurely lunch and good conversation. We’re also both introverted, and therefore, comfortable with silence. so we had times of talking, and times of just hanging out.

After lunch, we walked over to the Auditorium Theater, an historic theater on Michigan Avenue, where we saw a performance of “Too Hot to Handel: A Jazz Gospel Messiah.” This innovative concert has a 150 voice choir, a full orchestra and three soloists performing Handel’s Messiah as you’ve likely never heard it before–with trumpet and saxophone solos, soloists who move from traditional style to scatting, and a level of audience participation not seen at most classical performances.

Aaron said the concert was “alright”–although he thought the drum solo was cool–but he liked the sushi best. When I take my kids out for one-on-one time, I try to find something to do that they will enjoy. But I also like to try and push the envelope a bit. To get out of our suburban surroundings into the city, to hear something he might not ordinarily choose, to have a cross-cultural experience (we were in the ethnic minority in the audience at the concert), to learn the give-and-take of relating to others.

Our afternoon in the city provided an opportunity to stretch my son’s world, and for me to tell him, “I’m so glad we did this, because I love spending time with you.” As a working mom, I don’t always get to say that.  But those are words my son needs to hear.