Jaded Youth

| 6/30/2014 9:57:00 AM

jaded youth

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website

Hi Tim,
I hope you can clear something up for me. I am in my early 60's, and a grandparent. I love my grandkids more than anything, and spend every moment I can with them. All three of them are 11-14, so they are losing interest in this old grandma and her tired old stories. They come to visit often since they are only an hour away, but usually spend the time with their faces buried in their phones or iPads or laptops or some other machine, or when the batteries run out they switch to the old standby, television where they surf for hours. In between, or when they are forced by their parents to interact with us, they sulk.

They are sweet and loving kids but they look and act bored out of their minds and I am tired of it. I don't like feeling like a trip to my house is an obligation for them. My husband and I were thinking of using some savings and taking them on a trip to Disney World, something memorable that would be exciting enough to hold their attention, and make them smile for a change. Is this too much? I would be heartbroken if they were bored a few hours into the trip. Please advise.

- Betty Boring

Hi Betty,
Ah, first-world problems for children who seem impossible to entertain. When consumer-oriented kids do not appreciate what they have, even though they have a lot of it, upping the ante to a theme park adventure is not a solution I would recommend. So yes, it is too much. See one clever mother's article about "magical childhoods" here, and her direct letter to kids here, for a good laugh and some excellent points. If children require mind-blowing, adrenaline-enhanced joy rides for which retirement savings must be bled then what they are in greater need of is an education. Part of that education and perhaps ours as well, is learning that is it is actually good for children to be bored occasionally, as it spurs creativity.

Children will be using screens, and thereby developing neural pathways we could never dream of, but that does not cancel out the entirety of all civilization that existed beforehand! You and your husband no doubt are flush with skills that these precious cherubs desperately need, and the world equally needs to preserve. Do you or your husband tinker with machines, cook, can or garden? Use this list to start to jog your memory of the many skills you two probably have. Plan projects for their next visit and share your talents with the grandkids. Plant a permanent smile on your face and ignore the heavy sighs, shrugs, and selective hearing loss/mutism that may very well ensue. If you have to, get the parents involved and agree that everyone turn off their devices during family activities.

Imagine Lois Lowry’s The Giver with a happier beginning, middle and ending. Children need desperately to be in touch with and learn from their elders. In addition to imparting your wisdom, volunteering as a family can provide an invaluable education to children about what real problems look like and how grateful they ought to be. Check volunteermatch.org for opportunities for adults and kids. They may not appreciate your efforts today, but rest assured the lessons will not be wasted.

Wedded Wallflower

Hi Tim,
I need your help. My husband and I are in our 30's and we have been happily married for ten years. However, when we go shopping or out to eat, he constantly flirts with young girls! Not women, I mean teenagers; they don't get much younger than some of these store clerks and wait staff. Yes, he is an attractive guy but you would think he was Brad Pitt the way girls carry on with him, complimenting his tattoos and even squeezing his hand or arms or rubbing his shoulders. Meanwhile, I could be a piece of the furniture for all the attention I get from her or even him.  

I trust him completely and I know, flirting is harmless and a few times is one thing, but we can't even leave the house anymore for date night, without some kind of creepy exchange between him and whatever cheerleader of the hour we encounter. I brought it up to him and he laughs at me as if I am hysterical. He believes it would be rude to cut these girls short, and we often get better service as a result. How do I convince him to grow up? 

- Wedded Wallflower

Hi Wallflower,
I cringe at the thought of you trying to look deep into your man's eyes and share a romantic moment across candlelight on your anniversary night while a giggly and nubile Lolita with braces gives him a light shoulder massage before taking your order. Since you indicate certainty that your husband is not cheating, perhaps he is merely the merry extrovert, soaking up the social energy that flirting can provide so quickly and converting it to confidence. In other words, he is getting some personal need met. 

When you address this issue with your husband, and you will, do not argue about whether or not you are overreacting. His behavior with these girls is serving no purpose other than feeding his ego. Let him know that his actions are hurting your feelings, and you are making a reasonable request for him to stop. He must forego these “tit-for-tat” exchanges, at least while in your company. Ask him to imagine watching the same kind of nauseating display between you and a neighborhood Adonis who happens to be bagging your groceries, mowing your lawn or even giving you a full-on massage at your local spa! Verbally unfold that dreamy scenario until he gets the idea. When he does, he will be ready to make a behavior change. 

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