Saturday, June 11, 2011

Relatability

An acquaintance--the mother of my sister-in-law's sister's boyfriend, to be unnecessarily precise--said something to me last year that really struck me. She and I were chatting as we walked down a beautiful Carribbean beach toward a snorkeling spot, and I mentioned how impressed I was at the close, comfortable relationship she had with her son (a grown man, but more than a decade my junior). She paused for a moment and then let me in on her secret: "I have made it a point," she said, "to embrace and participate in my kids' passions. Even when I don't have any inherent interest in them myself. It's how I keep myself relevant in my kids' eyes." (Case in point: taking up snorkeling and scuba diving at age 50.)



It sounds really simple and obvious in hindsight, but it had never occurred to me in those terms. I had anticiapted the need to support my kids in their interests and pursuits, but I hadn't considered the need to actively enjoy them myself--an obligation, not a personal pleasure.



The question I didn't ask her was how. How do you develop an interest in something that doesn't inherently interest you? How do you relate to the passions of a different generation, and especially a different gender?



I can see it being fairly easy with Olivia while she's young: so far, she is a girl with stereotypical girl-interests. She likes gymnastics and figure skating, pretty clothes, books and birds--all things I liked and still do. (To be honest, I am still a serious figure skating geek.) But what happens when she takes up, say, mime? Or sitar?



And then there's Josh, my rambunctious boy's-boy. I am already at a loss: diggers and dump trucks, race cars and fighter planes. I can barely discern a backhoe from an excavator, much less an F14 from an F16. (Aside: Is there really a difference between a front-loader and a bulldozer?) When he moves on to video games and football, I may be completely sunk.



I worry that being such an aged mother has me at a disadvantage here. I'll be 42--42!--years older than my half-baked boy, assuming all goes well. And I won't exactly be a young 42, not hip and trendy, and perhaps even--I hate to admit this--closed-minded. (Like my dad, who considered all rock & roll "nothing but goddamned noise.")



I'm hoping I'll find some way to bridge the generation-and-a-half gap; and if not, I hope I can gracefully accept the eye-rolls and exasperation, the "Nevermind, Mom, you just wouldn't get it."

8 Comments:

Blogger VHMPrincess said...

That is a great question - please update us when you get all the responses in - I hadn't thought about it this way either.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Thalia said...

What a great perspective, that's really helpful. I think looking at my two I will have the same challenge, though. Interested to read the discussion.

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree this is a very interesting subject. Never had a close relationship with my mother and worry about working it out with my kids. She was considered an "older" mother at 28 back in 1970. We definitely had a generational divide. Just had my last two at 39. I like the approach discussed but not sure I could physically keep up (chronic health issues already and most definitely not hip). I hope adopting their interests at, at least, an intellectual level will yield some mutual ground on which to relate. --Sue

11:34 AM  
Blogger Tommie said...

I'm an 'old' mom by some standards too and I worry about this. I was 32 when I had my first and 36 when my second and last was born. Though they're both girls, they are bound to have a wide variety of interests in which I'll probably not be inclined to share. I hope, though, that I can be supportive, without actually have to put on that snorkle or saddle up that horse. We'll see. I guess, in the end, all we can do is our best and hope our kids get that we tried.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Alexicographer said...

Urm. Intending no offense either to you or to your acquaintance, I have to admit that for me personally I hope my own example (including as their mother, but not to the extent of embracing and participating in their passions in order to keep myself relevant in their eyes), interests, and accomplishments are what will form the basis for a (hopefully solid, close, comfortable) relationship with my (adult) kids. Whether I'm getting it right or getting it wrong, this isn't abstract for me; I'm already (step)parenting two of them with just one still a good ways from adulthood.

I'm not sure at what point we shifted to being a culture whose (more senior) adults sought the respect of our (less senior) adults and kids rather than the other way around and honestly I don't doubt there are good things about that shift (I mean that). But I do also think there are real downsides, and I personally would rather embrace my own passions than my kids' (which isn't to say I don't want us to share some, nor that I won't or don't participate in theirs, but still ...

9:01 PM  
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2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A front loader has a bucket that can be raised and lowered. A bulldozer has a curved blade that is usually stationary.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Lioness said...

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6:38 PM  

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