By Natasha Josefowitz
La Jolla Light
Our three adult grandsons visited us recently at separate times at our retirement community of White Sands. Having visited us yearly since infancy-at first with their parents and now alone-they have “done” San Diego. By this I mean that the zoo, SeaWorld, Wild Animal Park, the climbing wall, Reubin H. Fleet Science Center, the Midway, the Star of India, as well as the various museums, held little interest.
The weather was cold and rainy, so the usual outdoor activities were out. And so, reading, movies, the computer, TV and dinners out were the only acceptable entertainments. All three boys were tethered to their cell phones, either talking to their friends or text messaging.
To make these trips more meaningful, something else needed to be done. Since we took all meals together, this was the ideal opportunity to get to know these young people in their new twenty-something skins, as well as help them know their elderly grandparents beyond the talk of sports and politics.
So I devised a list of 10 questions we all had to answer in turn. A “Yes” or “No” or “I don’t know” would not do. As each answer was pondered, we could ask questions to clarify and expand as well as use personal examples-all of which led to discussion at a deeper level than previously achieved. This list includes the following which worked well with our grandsons. This works well also for your dinner parties or whenever you wish to deepen a relationship.
There is no special order to these, choose the ones you are most comfortable with; it is important that you talk first as it becomes the model of how to be personal and revealing.
- What is (was) your favorite place/book/movie/food?
- What surprises you most about your life?
- If you could change one thing in your life so far, what would it be?
- What decision(s) are you currently wrestling with?
- Is there one memory you would like to hold onto forever?
- If you could choose any profession, without further study, what would it be?
- In whose shoes would you like to walk for a day?
- What topic gets you the most excited or most upset?
- What is the one thing you are most proud of?
- What are you most grateful for?
Obviously not all the topics can be covered during a visit, one must choose the few most appropriate for the particular grandchild’s circumstances. Some are easy to answer for the non-talkative kid, some are more complex.
Most answers were quite illuminating and some helped us uncover whole sides of personality we knew nothing about. Since we as grandparents also answered these questions, the kids heard about parts of our lives they had never known, as well as our own hopes, fears and dreams.
A different question and one that can only be asked after trust has been built and confidentiality respected is “What is the one thing you have said or done and should not have, or not said or done and should have - and still feel badly about?” Be sure to share your own feelings of guilt first. This may turn out to be quite cathartic.
Allow the conversation to go off-topic and to any direction that seems meaningful. The questions you choose to ask are also the ones you are willing to answer and in the process, your new, increased and deepened knowledge of each other will result in a new, increased and deepened intimacy and that, after all, is the most wonderful thing we can ever offer our grandchildren.