Friday, October 28, 2016

Generational Convergence

Over the past few years, I've learned that the Heir is the grandson every senior citizen would love to have. He's a helper. He's patient. He's diplomatic and kind. And he knows technology. By volunteering at the library to help local senior citizens with their technology, he learned this too. E-readers? Ipads? Laptops? Printers? Cell phones? If you've got questions, he's got answers. Of course he was groomed by helping his own grandparents, so this seemed a natural transition. But I have to admit, the former IT Help Desk manager in me is very proud of his professionalism in dealing with strangers this way.
One day after work, he came home from the library and mentioned that he'd met a man who reminded him of his late Grandpa. 

The Heir: "He was really smart and sweet." 

Me: "Oh yes? What did he need? Were you able to help him?"

The Heir: "Yeah, I showed him how to set up a profile at an online dating site."

Me: ....

What struck me most about the conversation was that, to The Heir, this was no big deal. Just another day at work. But to me, it was surprising. Which of course begged the question, what does that say about me?

For one thing, senior dating sites exist for a reason. There's a demand and people older than me don't stop living and dating and loving just because they are widowed or divorced or... older than me. I admit none of this had ever crossed my radar. So I had to examine why. Was I stereotyping? Biased? Part of the problem in today's society that overlooks and underestimates the aging population on a regular basis?

The kindest answer that made the most sense is that my parents and in-laws all had marriages that lasted over 50 years. Till death did they part, in the case of my in-laws, and my parents are still alive and well and together. 

But the truthful answer is, I am blind to the needs of our population's seniors. I don't think about them because I don't have to. But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't. They are part of my community and, as my son's actions reminded me, can benefit from services and people in that community, including me.

I have no personal experience with seniors who want to date. The fact that options exist for them, and that this man was brave enough to go to the library and ask for help in utilizing said options, from a teenager no less, made me smile. 

I hope never to be in the situation where I need to date again. But if I am, I hope I have the guts to go outside my comfort zone as this man did. I hope to have the options my community offers its seniors, and that the teenager who helps me is as kind, patient and genuinely caring as the Heir was. 

And if I'm honest, I hope I'm lucky enough to meet a man like the one he met at the library. I'd love to tell him the story of how once, when he was a teenager, my son helped a stranger--and me--learn something new.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Take Cover

Even before I became a mother, I hoped for boys. I couldn't explain why I felt the way I did, other than the vague idea that "boys are easier to raise". I'd been a girl, after all. A girl who grew up in a house with a brother and lived next door to three male cousins. I spend my youth climbing trees, riding bikes, roller skating, drawing comic strips, burning bugs on the sidewalk with my magnifying glass, putting weird things under my microscope to see what they were, collecting stamps and coins and playing baseball, kickball and manhunt. 

In other words, I was a regular kid. Not a tomboy, though that's what they called it back then. I was a kid enjoying and experiencing my world. Having fun and learning stuff were my priorities. Easy.

Until I became a teenager. Then things got weird. Why? Why was everyone suddenly acting so strangely? My friends at school, male and female, changed. Not just physically, but in thought process. Suddenly it seemed like I was supposed to care about Jordache jeans and Adidas sneakers and Izod shirts and feathered hair and the right bands and the right lip gloss and the right way to kiss a boy.

Not only was I left WAY behind in all physical aspects of the high school changelings around me (another post for another day), I also felt like the only kid in school who didn't get the "how to be cool" memo. 

Suddenly the fact that I liked climbing trees, reading J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and going fishing felt like something I shouldn't talk about. And it sucked.

Of course, back then I felt like the one who was losing out. The things other girls were interested in never interested me, and I didn't read magazines like Teen Beat to try to get the scoop. I just retreated into books. It's only now, when I look back, that I see I was actually doing OK and the kids trying to keep up with the popular crowd were the ones losing out. When you try to keep up, there's always something you're not doing that "everyone else is" doing. Drinking, drugs, sex, whatever was rumored to be the "in" thing was what it took to stay cool and ahead of the crowd.

Now I have two sons. One's a boy scout, and he gets Boys' Life magazine every month. Above is the cover that arrived this week. In case you can't read the main story description, here it is:

EXPLORE YOUR FUTURE: Astronaut? Artist? Firefighter? Chef? Here's How to Be What You Want To Be

The issue also includes articles on traversing glaciers on a hike, combating food waste with easy recipes, true stories of scouts in action who saved others' lives, a drawing lesson, a rock climbing lesson, a twig picture frame building lesson, comics, jokes and more.

All I know of the Girls' Life magazine are the cover stories I see listed:

-Fall Fashion You'll Love
-Wake Up Pretty
-Your Dream Hair
-My First Kiss
-Quiz: Are you ready for a boyfriend?

Can I just say, now and as a teen, I would rather read the Boys' Life? There are SO MANY INTERESTING THINGS to read about! My curiosity is piqued by every article. And just think of all the things I'd have to talk about at the lunch table tomorrow!

I admit I'm still glad I have boys, especially because this type of publication is available and marketed to them. But I'm also really sad that in the thirty-some-odd years since I was a teen, girls' magazines have clearly progressed not at all. What are we telling girls is important? Worth reading about? Talking about? Caring about? Spending money on? Nothing of substance. Nothing that will make them interested in their world, curious about possibilities for their futures or that will feed their souls. 

By selling magazines to girls that perpetuate the idea that the superficial is what matters, our society is doing girls and boys a disservice. Girls will have nothing worthwhile to think, talk or dream about and boys will find it difficult to relate to them on any real level.

It's 2016, for crying out loud. Parents, can we please push back on this type of thing and force publishers and marketers to get with the times? Write letters! Get on Twitter and voice your opinion! Boycott these "fluff" publications and explain to your daughters and sons why their content is useless!

And while you're at the store bashing the trash, pick up a copy of Boys' Life for your favorite girl. She'll love you for it. Maybe not today, but down the road.

Just a guess.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Riding Shotgun

Perhaps because I'm an avid fan of historical fiction, I've begun referring to my sons as "the Heir" and "the Spare".  Their recent antics consisted of the Spare taking baby octopus for lunch to camp one day so he could freak out the other kids. He'd hoped the fried anchovies would be an even bigger hit, but instead, the other campers banned him from the table because of the fishy smell. Live and learn.

Monday, the Heir passed his road test the first time out. He can now drive, unsupervised, until 9pm. Legally. But that doesn't mean I'm ready to let him take my car. I've been sitting shotgun while he drives himself to work, picks up the Spare from camp, gets milk, etc.

Until today.

This morning I asked him if he felt ready to take the Spare to camp. Alone. He nonchalantly said, "sure," even though he's been clearly frustrated at my need to tag along lately. And so, short on sleep and prior to coffee, I gave him the keys and watched them leave.

That's right. I put MY ENTIRE TEENAGE BROOD IN A BOX ON WHEELS, AND LET THEM DRIVE OFF WITHOUT ME.

Once the coffee kicked in, I started wondering what was taking him so long to get back. Then the customized "Heir" ringtone chimed on my phone. Oh my god, he's driving and texting did I teach him NOTHING I can't believe I ever..." 

*looks at phone

"I'm parked at the community center. Do you want me to go get gas?"

"....

Sure, if you're comfortable with that."

"OK, see you soon."

I never wanted to be a helicopter parent, and I think I've done a pretty good job so far (big kudos to my husband for keeping me grounded in that regard). I also look forward to becoming a couple again when the kids are off on their own. The Heir will leave next summer, and the Spare will be three years behind him. It's like a light at the long parenting tunnel. As in, "yay, no more noisy, stinky housemates!"

But with all the recent college visits and driving lessons, I find my grip tightening instead of loosening. The Heir and I are fighting a lot. I expect more from him and he resists with more vehemence. Gotta admit, I kinda hate it.

Apparently, this is part of the process of letting go. Hold tight, and he will push harder to get away. He won't be afraid to leave. On the contrary, he'll look forward to it. He'll fight back so much, I'll *wish* he would go. He wants to be independent as much as I want him to be. And yet. Though I know it'll be good for everyone, and we're both looking forward to it, we haven't lost sight of the fact that it'll be a huge change. Even when we're fighting, we still understand, deep down, what it will really mean: he won't need me anymore.

I think back to the Heir's toddlerhood, of showing him how to do something and then having him take the toy from my hand and say, "I do it." It's happening again. Only this time, he's taking the car.

I'll get through it, I always do. And I feel just as proud as I did when he was little and learning and doing on his own.

Wasn't that just, like, last month?

Live and learn.