My dad called in early February to say he wanted to come down for a three-night visit. Having received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, he was anxious to see our family and briefly escape the long Wisconsin winter.
Dad booked his flight so we’d be able to spend Valentine’s Day together.
Because of busy schedules, and of course due in part to the pandemic, it had been almost two years since I’d seen my Dad. Just like everyone else, we’ve obviously spent a lot of time at home without anyone new to converse with so Tom, the kids and I were excited for his arrival.
Fortunately, Dad’s in good health and very mobile at 80-years-young so I was trying to come up with something novel we could do together to highlight his stay. Tom suggested we tour the Nokona Ball Glove Factory in Nocona since my dad is a huge baseball fan. I called the factory and they were doing tours, so that was the plan.
And then it hit… Wisconsin was brought to Texas, not just with my dad’s flight, but with the weather as well. The snow. And the cold. And the lack of electricity. Not to mention no Internet. I will say this, we had plenty of time on our hands to catch up over his originally three-but-ended-up-being-four-night stay. There was also plenty of time to read by the fire!
During the long, cold days we talked about parenting kids today and how different it is from when me and my brothers were growing up. With my youngest two teens home all day (and night), it afforded the opportunity for Dad to learn how each of them felt about everything from virtual school, college costs, investing (my dad just retired from a long career involving money management) to politics, universal health care, we even watched a Michael Moore movie that spurred all kinds of differing opinions over dinner one evening.
I’ve noticed the older my dad gets, the more he works to listen to understand us rather than trying to make sure we hear [and agree with] his point of view. I am grateful to experience this myself as I age and as my kids work on their ability to share their opinions on a variety of topics while also listening to understand their grandpa two-generations older.
I believe there is a lot of value in taking the time to listen to where our kids are coming from. While I am not a fan of how much time my son and daughter spend in front of a screen, I am coming to accept this is how they communicate with others and spend a lot of time learning about their community, their state, and about everyday life in other countries. They have interest in topics I had no clue about when I was their age! Maddux and Mia seem to really care about equality, diversity, and making sure we find a way for everyone to be cared for. As a teenager my biggest concern was what I was going to wear to the party and how I could sneak out of the house without my parents catching me.
One of the easiest ways for us to connect with younger generations is to take the time to listen and ask questions. Coming from a place of nonjudgment we can also share our own points of view and wisdom in a way they might actually take into account.
Dad’s visit didn’t give him the chance to escape winter weather, but it did give us something much more important… the time for valuable human connection!