"Mom, do I have to visit Grandpa and Grandma today?" my 10-year-old son whined. "I get so bored!" His younger brothers added to his chorus of complaints, which continued until we pulled into their grandparents' drive.
With hanging heads, the three boys plodded into their grandparents' home and flopped on the nearest sofa. They had no intention of engaging in anything meaningful.
As I watched their half-hearted attempts at civility, I was saddened by the opportunities the boys were missing to connect with these wonderful people. So many children their age can't be bothered to invest in relationships with older relatives. They offer myriad excuses — the visits are inconvenient; the relatives' homes are too hot; there isn't anything fun to do.
In my case, my sons had decided they didn't have much in common with their grandparents and couldn't see beyond their elders' physical limitations.
Because of this, I recognized the need to create a meaningful connection between the generations. My efforts began with a rummage through the attic. As my boys shuffled through old boxes and crates, one of my sons pulled out an old telephone. "Mom, look at this!"
I smiled. He had shown me what to do next.
"Boys, pick one thing you want to ask your grandparents about." One chose a stainless steel milk jug, and it led Grandma to talk about growing up on a dairy farm. She told them about getting up at 3:30 a.m. to milk the cows and make her milk deliveries before school each day.
Another wore a brightly colored hat that Grandpa explained came from a trip to Peru.
And finally, the third displayed a long bamboo stick. Grandpa smiled. "That's an old fishing pole," he said. "Let's try it out next time you visit." My boys were thrilled and talked excitedly about how much fun it would be to catch fish with Grandpa.
Bridging the gap
My children learned to bridge the generation gap by pursuing common interests, and my parents responded in ways the kids could understand. Prior to subsequent visits, I would write down discussion topics for my children, have them work with their grandparents to write a memory book and help them consider other things they had in common.
In some families, older people may not be able to connect with their grandchildren through common interests or contribute to the relationship in tangible ways. But there is still purpose in having children visit older relatives. Elders are valuable members of the family and deserve our time and attention, even when your kids aren't entertained during the visits. And years later, they will know what it means to honor, love and respect older relatives as treasured members of the family.