Randi Kreiss

The son of my daughter, the daughter of my son

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After my mother died, my grown kids thought it would be good for me to have a couple of grandkids around for two weeks. You know, distraction and so forth. Let the young people lift my spirits and get me going.

So, after the whole family spent some days together, honoring my mother and saying goodbye, my daughter left her 11-year-old son with us and my son left his 15-year-old daughter. Think about the possibilities of this new permutation.

These two first cousins live 3,000 miles apart, and they love each other, but they live on two different planets in many ways: geographically, temperamentally, developmentally and experientially. He is a bright and pensive kid who lives in a small mountain town. He spends free time skiing and hiking and floating the river. She is a bright and gregarious kid who lives in a Florida suburb. She spends her down time ballet dancing and cruising the mall.

Realize this: My husband and I have not had preteens and teens around for decades.

I live on a third planet: healthy meals with lots of kale, 9 o’clock bedtime, no TV and plenty of hours to read and write. Sounds like fun for teenagers, right? My husband is a resident of a fourth planet, and he can tell you about it when he gets to write a column.

Also, it’s 2018, not the ’80s, and raising teenagers has really changed. I’m so deeply sorry for all you parents of adolescents. How do you handle the pressure? I mean, the devices alone have pushed parenting into a nearly impossible realm.

My granddaughter is way too connected. Her phone is in her hand all day and, as far as I can determine, most of the night. When I ask what she’s doing, she says, “Nothing.” She can chat up anyone, but it’s really hard to get her to talk, if you know what I mean.

My grandson, a product of the great outdoors when he’s home under his parents’ supervision, only wants to play video games on my iPad.

My husband and I are trying our best. In a week we’ll mark our 50th anniversary. We weren’t meant to wrangle teens. They’re too big for the park, so we took them to the city. The noise, tumult and weirdos creeped out my country boy. My granddaughter drew uninvited attention, and that creeped me out. Her shorts are too short, I thought. What’s wrong with her parents?

I totally forgot whether you have to remind kids this age to brush their teeth or shower or eat. Fortunately, these two children are quite self-sufficient in that regard. And they must have been told to pitch in, because they’re making their beds and clearing the table. My grandson said he would do yard work for $5 an hour. I guess that’s the going rate where he lives. I have no yard work, because what’s yard work?

Culture clash: Last Thursday I took my granddaughter to see “Mean Girls” on Broadway because that was what she really, really, really wanted to do. She loved it. I was pretty much appalled.

The play depicts a modern American high school and the conflicts among the girls who are trying to survive adolescence. But the high school life portrayed is so different from what I experienced, and so disturbing. When, exactly, did young high school kids get permission to use gross language, dress inappropriately and flaunt their sexual behavior? This is not progress. It is precociousness and to me, offensive.

I taught high school. I believe the rules we had in place for decent attire and language were civilizing elements of the school experience.

My granddaughter assures me the behavior in the play (and the movie, which she has seen four times) is an exaggeration. She says the real message is about being yourself and not subverting your values in a tradeoff for popularity.

I don’t know. This show is for teenagers, and the theater was filled with young people. I felt embarrassed by some of the language, and the suggestion that free and easy sexuality is acceptable when you’re 14 or 15. The culture, I think, is pushing kids into the adult world prematurely. I raised teenagers, I taught teenagers and over these two weeks I borrowed a preteen and a teen. I wish, for them, that their world were slower, quieter and more civil.

Their visit with us has been a kind of back-to-the-future experience, with my kids’ kids sleeping in their old rooms. Our time together was just what it was supposed to be. I’ve been distracted and delighted. It has been, as they say, awesome.

Copyright 2018 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.