By Guest Blogger Deanna Shoss
We were sitting at the dinner table at Fitz’s in St. Louis last week. While my husband, son and I chatted at one end of the table, I overheard my mom getting a momentary-oh-so-cherished-one-on-one with her grandson, my 15 year old nephew, an avid St. Louis Blues hockey fan.
“So, how do you think the Blues will do with Elliott gone?” she asked him, me thinking who is this strange woman next to me?
“They’ll do okay,” he answered, with the new goalie team coming on.”
“You mean, Allen? Do you think he’ll stay?” she asked by way of follow-up question. An actual sports-related follow-up question.
“Yeah,” he answered, making this a full blown conversation. “And Hutton will be a good back up, too.”
At that the moment passed, the food arriving, and the attention focused back to the full group.
Later that night, I couldn’t help but comment. “Wow, mom…impressive…you really studied!” I knew that my mom actually hates hockey. One time when my sisters and I spoke of fond memories of going to hockey games with our dad, who had season tickets when we were growing up, my mom chimed in with “yes, I was glad when you kids were old enough to go so I didn’t have to freeze in that arena anymore!”
But now my mom beamed with pride, the fact that I had overheard the conversation was icing on the cake. My mom, like many a grandparent, has noticed the difference as her grandson has grown up, going from that bouncy excitement of seeing grandma and grandpa and going on outings to train museums and getting root beer floats, to one word, mostly grunted responses.
“Now I have to read the damn sports page,” she said, including the expletive for comedic effect for me. “And it’s even harder in person…I have to remember the names! At least if I’m on the phone I can say hey what do you think about so and so and just read the names from the paper.” Like having cheat sheets or cramming for a test. “Be sure to tell Jerry it works,” she added, referring to Jerry Witkovsky, his book The Grandest Love: Inspiring the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection and his mission to help grandparents enter their grandchild’s world.
“Read what they are reading in school; learn about what they are interested in. Ask them questions,” Jerry advises.
One could say “but I’m the Grandma…they should come to me!” Yes, you could…but what you really want is a connection, a way to enter their world and understand their lives. To connect, help and support each other because you find each other interesting as people.
As grandchildren become teenagers, you (and their parents…aka your adult children) all start to realize that the window for connecting to them as children is rapidly closing, just as the challenges of high school and pressures of growing up are getting harder. You want to help, but you have to get in the door first.
Hence studying the sports page. Hence making a vegan Thanksgiving. Hence learning to play a video game or text. Hence reading the Twilight Saga. Hence…
What are your grandkids into? What do you do to enter their world?