EDITORIAL

What it takes to break the 'ice' with teenagers

Posted 2/18/21

I had forgotten how awkward it is to be a teenager until I became a grandfather. The realization hit me Saturday soon after my son Ted, his wife, Erica, and their twin daughters, Alex and Sydney, arrived for an evening of Chinese takeout. While I visited

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in
EDITORIAL

What it takes to break the 'ice' with teenagers

Posted

I had forgotten how awkward it is to be a teenager until I became a grandfather. The realization hit me Saturday soon after my son Ted, his wife, Erica, and their twin daughters, Alex and Sydney, arrived for an evening of Chinese takeout. While I visited them on a couple of occasions since Christmas, this was really a first get-together since then.

Carol and I gave hugs to Ted and Erica. The girls, who are now high school freshmen, sort of stood to one side, knowing they wouldn’t be overlooked but looking like they really wouldn’t miss that part of the welcome. We extended arms and sort of bumped. I shifted quickly to taking coats and greeting Nash, the family dog that between the car and the house had managed to snare a thorny twig in his long hair. Nash was the center of attention, which, of course he loves.

As Ted worked on Nash, we flowed into the living room where the girls sat side by each on the couch. They dove into the pretzels, chips and olives. I went off to find ice and get the drinks.

I passed the drinks around and then looked to pick up on the conversation. Erica was telling us about her mother, who lives and Canada and hasn’t been able to visit since the virus shut down everything last March. Flights are a possibility, but to pull that off would involve a day of bouncing between cities to get to Boston. The girls sat silently. Obviously, they knew the story.

So, I started asking them questions.

Carol has accused me of conducting inquisitions, so I kept it low key and started with the topic of school. The twins are on a hybrid system that gives them two days of in-person and three days of virtual classes weekly.

I remember my parents asking me how I liked school and not knowing what to say. I equated school with work, and work was not supposed to be fun. Surely, I couldn’t say, “I’m having a great time,” otherwise my parents might figure I was getting away with something – although my grades made it apparent I wasn’t having an easy time of the “work.”

Saying “it’s OK” was lame and declaring it “terrible” would prompt a barrage of questions. I went with “OK,” which would end the inquiry.

The twins do well in school, so I had picked a “safe” topic.

They agreed in-person was preferable to distance learning. I was on safe ground so far.

Naturally, the next question was “What do you like about learning in class?” I caught Carol’s glance before I had a chance to get it out. I went with an observation, “Well, you get to see your friends.” The girls nodded. This wasn’t going far.

I had hoped for an exchange, that they would volunteer some information.

Somehow the older you get the less difference age makes. As a teenager, my grandparents were ancient. But now approaching 80, I don’t think of teenagers as being too young to engage in conversation and of great thoughts. In fact, I look to them for inspiration and a fresh perspective.

Banter about school doesn’t qualify as engaging conversation. It wasn’t even an icebreaker, although I am honestly interested in what’s happening in school during these challenging times.

Yet those awkward walls of age came down.

All it took was a couple of games. After Chinese takeout we played Pictionary and Estimate. Pictionary had us laughing as we attempted to draw a pirate, a pilot, an animal hospital and a humming bird, among other things. The card game Estimate was new to the twins and took explaining by Ted, but competition has a way of honing comprehension. They were on to it.

All these years later, I know why my grandmother so enjoyed playing hearts. I always thought she loved winning, which she did a lot of. But now I understand what she really enjoyed was interacting with us kids.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment