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."