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What Do We Owe To Our Grandchildren?

There I was in a long line with my grocery cart.  The lady at the front – the OCD woman with 30 clipped magazine coupons to scan, each of which will save her 1.5 cents – was proudly waving her fanned collection at the checker as if she were about to be a big winner in Reno. This was going to take a while.

So, I did what I always do to distract myself. I looked for something to read. To my immediate left at eye level were THE TABLOIDS, the early, spawning originators of fake news and voyeur headlines.

How often has your first reaction to something been “I’m so glad my grandchildren aren’t here to see/experience this.”? It happens to me with surprising frequency. It isn’t that I want to insulate them from the world. I don’t have primary responsibility for them nor should I be setting priorities. They have parents for that. Still, these times always trigger in me concern about what I am doing on a regular basis to help my grandchildren.

Grandparents come in a dazzling variety of configurations. Some can’t wait to buy teddy bears and books to read together. Some don’t want much to do with them until they are old enough to get into the car on their own for a ride. Other grandparents delight in baby sitting or taking a teenager out for her first cup of coffee or helping them become diehard team fans or setting aside money for college or attending piano recitals and T-ball games.

My personal configuration is built around the intention that I can give each of them confidence and adaptability. Provided we have the foundation of high quality one on one time together, I can add experiences which will serve them well for the rest of their lives. For example, finding their way (safely) through a new experience in a place they don’t know well with other kids they don’t know at all – Circus or Marine Biology or Theater day camp, for instance. Or lunch with me at a white table cloth restaurant followed by a movie or a play. Or walking down Grant Avenue together hand in hand and going into a tea shop for a cup where the rest of the customers are all Chinese and over 70.  Or going down ALL the waterslides together several times at a sunny resort.

How does what I want to give to them differ from what I owe them? THE TABLOIDS pushed me into exploring the difference.

I discovered I’m clear about what I want to give to them: any kind of new experience that will 1. allow them expanded forms of curiosity and knowledge they hadn’t thought of before, 2. provide them with enjoyable social and cultural surprises and insight, and 3. add to their confidence that they are smart, adaptable, and highly competent people.

As for what I owe to them, I have to remember that their lives won’t necessarily be an extension of mine. In fact, their lives may differ as significantly as the world they are inheriting differs from the one handed to me.

Here, after much reflection, is my list of what I owe to my grandchildren:

  1. My own authenticity (and non-pedantic exposure through me) to the norms of my generation
  2. Explanation more than total protection. I could blind them to THE TABLOIDS or I could have a serious conversation about the implications of rampant voyeurism and fake news.
  3. Trust and respect that in the long run they will make good decisions about their lives as they move into a future which I can only imagine.
  4. Unadulterated, non-demanding affection.
  5. Continual remembering – and the behaviors that go with it – that I am their grandfather and not their parent.
  6. Sincere interest in them and their interests.
  7. Enough high-quality availability without being like hot water, always available at the turn of the tap.
  8. Respect and support for their individuality. I remember, when I was 17, my own maternal grandmother gently taking my hands in hers and saying “Do what you want to do, dear. You will anyway.”  I have never forgotten it.

In a nice way, I owe the OCD coupon-waving customer and THE TABLOIDS in the rack a moment of gratitude. Without them I wouldn’t have been pressed to distinguish between give and owe.

As for what my grandchildren want from me, I’m saving that for a future blog.

The new year is now upon us. What is it you want to give to your grandchildren in the coming year?

What is it you think you owe to your grandchildren in the coming year?

What is it you think your grandchildren want from you?

Let me know, please.

The Return Of The 10’ Christmas Tree

Part One

I admit it. By the time the boys were teenagers, my enthusiasm for decorating for the holidays, putting up a large Christmas tree, hanging lights on the house, and later taking it all down and putting it away again was so minuscule it could only be detected through a microscope.

This was eventually followed by the day when I sold the family house and, for the first time in decades, I no longer owned a house, hose, lawn mower, wheel barrow, outside holiday lights, or an extension ladder.  Of course I paid for packing and security locker storage of the indoor holiday decorations we had bought together, along with all of those Halloween, Easter, and Thanksgiving items the kids had made in school. Those were of obvious historic and sentimental importance, weren’t they? In the meantime, Liberation! The “Urban Condo Period” of my life had begun.

Then Linda came along and everything changed hue. Throughout our wonderful urban condo years together, holiday decorating totaled:

  1. a wreath on the front door
  2. extra candles Linda placed around strategically
  3. a lovely but reusable 4’ decorator-designed tree I bought at a charity auction.

Decorating for the holidays became a 20-minute process.  Putting everything away took 15 minutes.

Eventually I was struck by the we’re-too-young-to-get-too-comfortable-so-let’s-go-challenge-ourselves-while-we’re-still-young-enough bug. Developmental Psychologists who believe in walking their talk will tend, as a part of integrity, to do these things. The idea was that if we could move to a really well-selected place where we knew no one and then build a great life for ourselves within 5 years, nothing was going to happen to us for the rest of our lives that we couldn’t handle together. The theory has since proved to be sound in practice.

To begin our challenge to ourselves, we built a template of great-fit characteristics. We spent 3 years looking for a place that would work for both and each of us. It had to be someplace where we could pursue our interests and continue our work with no desire to “retire”.

The 5-year experiment began when we found a great-fit area on the opposite coast, bought a house we loved, and moved across the country.   We kept our city condo as a fallback, renting it instead of selling it. All of our good friends were supportive. Several of them still think we’re crazy but have finally given up waiting for us to move back.

Our 1st Holiday Season in the new house was limited to decorations A thru C above from our Urban Condo Period. The following year, to our great surprise, we acquired a 10’ Christmas tree for our living room which we happily spent 2 full days decorating with our large assortment of tree and home decorations (fresh from security storage after all those years). We had tree ornaments my parents collected throughout my childhood, Linda’s parents’ ornaments from the earliest days of their marriage, ornaments we had each acquired through the years, and ornaments we had given each other. We did have to sort through and purge the junk and, I admit it again, dump much of that stuff the kids had made years ago that no longer seemed to be of such obvious historic and sentimental value. Actually I wondered why I had kept all that stuff they didn’t care about. In the end the tree looked great and we had plenty of ornaments for all 10’. We bought more anyway. And we have looked forward to doing all of it again every holiday season.

Part Two

Now we’re approaching the 10th Holiday Season of our 5-year experiment. A full decade of life can make a big difference in preferences and priorities for all of us. We have benefited and prospered in our now-not-so-new location and have no regrets about having made the big leap. It’s still lovely after all this time to be back in a real house with bigger rooms, higher ceilings and lots of space and light. We enjoy having room for our professional work and special, personal projects and interests without having to put them away in a closet or drawer all the time.  We have great confidence in the quality of the experience and skills we’ve accrued over these years.

What brings all of this up? The holidays do. It’s Appreciation Time for all who have become part of our lives as well as for the depth and breadth of our friendships.

I concede the 10” tree is looking taller and more daunting than it did 10 Christmases ago when we bought it, but it really goes with the house and who we are in it. Of course, we have the added inspiration of living in this neighborhood. Ours is one of the few houses that won’t have imaginative outdoor holiday lights. Down the street you’ll find a 16’ Frosty made of industrial-strength chicken wire with a gazillion lights. For counterpoint there’s a lighted Menorah in one yard and a house where not one bush or tree has escaped some form of seasonal electrification.

This all makes a 10’ tree in our living room seem like a really happy tradition for Linda and me. None of us knows what the future will bring or what decisions we’ll face. The day will come when a desire for simplification will overtake us, and we’ll be on to the next residential period of our lives.  After 18 years together we know our lives, like most people’s, won’t unroll like a ribbon in a straight line. We’ve kept our 4’ decorator tree all these years as a happy remembrance and just in case we need it again someday in smaller quarters.

Our holiday commitment to ourselves and to our friends is to open-eyed “normalcy” in a world currently sloshing through changes we hadn’t imagined and can’t control.  In the “spirit of normal” our tree is decorated with memories, hopes, good intentions, and sincere best wishes to all of you and yours for happy times during the Holidays and throughout the coming year.

Blessings from our home to you and yours.

If You Are Going To Ask My Granddaughter A Question, Please Make It A Smart One

 

There was a time, actually not so long ago, when we made choices and they stayed made.  We chose among a menu of options and decided on  just one.  We chose an employer, spouse, educational path, profession, home and community. We decided what our primary assumptions, preferences and loyalties were.   Once our choices were made it took a business earthquake or a personal cataclysm of some sort to change things.  Today not only do decisions often refuse to stay made, but most of us think of change as one ingredient of life not requiring a direct nuclear hit to get us to reconsider.

In the process, one of the outstanding changes in precedent is that we are no longer required to choose one single thing and wear its name around like a sign hung from our necks. We can have a job AND freelance. We can operate from our car, office, and home all within an hour or two. We can hold opposing ideas at the same time and see the wisdom in both.  We can belong to more than one diverse group simultaneously.  I consider this to be a part of the new normal.   

As a long time Career Professional, I discourage my clients from building a plan or a search on a single piece of work (form and content) for the rest of their lives.   

As an Organizational Psychologist I regularly coach employers to understand that smart retention has become as important as smart hiring.     

As a Developmental Psychologist I observe people at 50 thinking they are already fully formed and that their future should and will be automatically an extension of their past.    

As a Grandfather, I recently observed as one of my friends asked my granddaughter what she wanted to be when she grew up.    She knew from my face that I would see the question as a Bozo (think clown) Question.   

Why was it a Bozo Question? Because it assumed: 

  1. she will (and is expected to) choose one near permanent thing for the rest of her life
  2. there is such an end state as grown up, a place at which she will finally arrive
  3. by the time she gets “there” her intended outcomes will all be waiting for her, mostly unchanged and still quite stable.    

A much smarter questions would have been: “Of your various longer term interests and possibilities, which most appeal to you at the moment?”

The original question didn’t allow for her development to be ongoing and intentional for the rest of her life.

When does a great 6-year-old start working on being a great 10-year-old?  Hint: Not at 9.  

When does a 38-year-old start working on being a great 50-year-old? Hint: Not at 49.   

When does a 74-year-old start working on being a great 80-year-old?  Hint: Not at 79.   

What forms is your own development taking at this point in your life?   What are your own intentions for your future, immediate and long term?

 

In Praise of Traveling with Granddaughters

SFO Airport/San Francisco. 3:00 am PDT. Three of my granddaughters (ages 7, 11, 14) and I are flying to the East Coast.  Their 17-year-old sister is already at our house.  Accustomed to flying together, the girls and I are a moving combination of jocular and somnambulant.  We have a 5:00 a.m. departure with a connection to make in Denver.  Ever mindful of the many reminder messages to be at the airport at least two hours in advance of departure, we have arrived on time.  The United check-in kiosks say, in effect, “Not operational outside of regular business hours.”  The girls and I sit patiently.

SFO 3:50 am PDT. The very nice airport police stop to answer my question.  United check-in staff usually doesn’t come on duty until 4:30 a.m.  And TSA won’t open for a while either.  The kiosks are still not operating.  The girls are fine.  I am not so much.

SFO. 4:20 am PDT. The kiosks have come online and I have obtained our boarding passes. Somewhere the luggage tags have printed out.  We are now standing at the front of a United Preferred Service line with about 25 people behind us.  Many of them are on our flight and are wondering out loud whether someone at the airline simply can’t do the time math.  The girls are fine.  I am not.

SFO. 4:25 am PDT. The first of the United staff arrives and very crossly demands to know why we are all standing there instead of having checked ourselves in and proceeded on to TSA.  “Because we don’t have access to the luggage tags and the luggage belt isn’t running.  How would you suggest we solve that?”  I say.  “Oh” Is her reply.  The girls are fine.  I am irritated and also relieved to finally be moving ahead.

SFO. 5:15 am PDT. We have passed through the TSA screening process, have boarded, and are now in our seats.  The pilot announces that we have a small mechanical problem, something to do with fuel.  A mechanic is coming to check it out and fix it.  Shouldn’t be long.  I decide I don’t care because we’re all in our seats.  It’s only a question of time.  What can go wrong?  I’m sitting with the 7-year-old asleep leaning on my right shoulder.  The other girls are fine, too.

SFO. 7:15 am PDT. We have now been through pilot announcements about the fuel problem, checking to see if the part is available, thanks us for our patience, the part is found, the repair is made, whoops we have lost our cabin crew and are awaiting a new one, and it won’t be long.  I’m meditating with only partial success.  The girls are fine but a bit restless.

Denver/DEN Airport. 10:15 am MDT.  The Customer Service agent (who deserves combat pay; if he had been a waiter I’d have tipped him big time for courtesy and calmness under fire) deftly points out to me that we have missed the only flight to our Tampa destination on Saturdays and that 1) He can book us through Dulles but we can’t get to our destination until 12:30 am tomorrow, or, 2) We might want to stay over in Denver for the night, and 3) It’s not only difficult to get four rerouted tickets but I also want to be sitting next to my 7-year-old which makes it even trickier.  I do not want to spend the night in Denver.  He will do his best.  And he does.  Four tickets to Tampa via Dulles.  I am doing my Blood Pressure Go Down chant silently.  The girls are hungry, tired, bored and well behaved.  I drown my sorrows by having my shoes shined, one of the little joys of my life.  Denver Airport has one of the best airport shoeshine stands anywhere: Executive Shine.  Try it out sometime!  The girls wait for me and then we go and eat large meals.

IAD/Dulles Airport. 6:00 pm EDT. Our flight leaves at 10:30 p.m.  Only 4 ½ hours to kill.  I am feeling tired.  The girls are, too, but continue to be total troopers.  I find myself admiring them more and more.  Our gregarious and articulate 14-year-old strikes up a conversation with two women whose tales of getting from Rome to home somewhere in New York state have stalled at IAD.  Not only were the ladies sweet with the girls, their travel stories made all of us feel much better about our own experiences of the day.  We finally find a Concourse D ersatz French restaurant and eat more big meals, and return to our gate to wait.

We reminisce and talk about our memories of traveling together.  Do you remember the time we spent part of the night at Newark Airport and United gave us dark blue blankets to keep us warm in the terminal?  Do you remember the time our flight was four hours late leaving SFO?   That was way worse than this time.  How about the time I took the girls to the Night Zoo in Singapore and the then-youngest, now 11, who usually wouldn’t hold my hand for more than two seconds, suddenly wouldn’t release her mace-like grip on my fingers as we rode the zoo jitney through the nocturnal animal exhibits?

IAD. 10:30 pm EDT. The 14-year-old has taken (at my insistence) my courtesy upgrade to first class.  She was “willing to suffer with it,” she told me, tongue firmly in cheek.  The 11-year-old has an aisle seat two rows ahead of us where I can see her, and she proudly pretends she is on her own.  The 7-year-old and I are in a window and center seat, respectively, and lean into each other like exhausted beanbags.  The girls are just fine, thank you very much, and have been much more patient than their father and their uncle, my sons, might have been under similar circumstances.  I have now forgotten my name and only know that I am somehow related to the little blonde girl on my right who is sleeping softly with her forehead pressed into my upper arm.

TPA/Tampa Airport. 12:30 am EDT. We stumble off the airplane, retrieve our luggage, take the shuttle to Economy parking, and begin the 50-minute drive home.  My wife Linda worries that I will fall asleep at the wheel.  Not a chance.  I am wired again on adrenaline and couldn’t sleep if I wanted to.  Linda keeps calling to see if I’m OK at the wheel.  I am fine.

Once home, after lots of hugs, the girls all go to bed and instantly fall asleep.  I, however, am still wired, and it’s well after 3 am before I can finally drift off.  In the interim I reflect on how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to travel with these granddaughters of mine.

Travelling may not always go smoothly but we get great stories and memories out of it anyway. I can just imagine how we’ll reminisce about the time we ate in that fake French restaurant at IAD and how the girls guessed at what the faux French words meant on that grungy menu.

Have any grandchildren travel stories you’d like to share with my other readers? If so, please leave them in Comments.

 

 

Rethinking the 4-Stage Life Model

 

Remember the four-stage life model?

1. Childhood

2. Education

3. Work and Family

4. Retirement

It seemed to work so well for our parents and grandparents.  But our world is very different from theirs.  So is this model obsolete?

For many, if not most of us, I believe the answer is a resounding YES.

 

Why?  Let me count some of the ways.

  1. Many of us are living far longer than our parents’ generation, and with those additional years (even decades) our needs and expectations will be different than in generations past.   Will you live longer and healthier than your parents?
  2. The famous financial planning three-legged stool may require a fourth leg.  The first leg, the planned benefit retirement with pensions, is growing scarce.  The second, Social Security,  may be at risk, at least in the form it is now.  The third, retirement savings, is, in the majority of households, grossly insufficient.  Many people will need extended, if smaller, income streams from some type of work for pay to bring some stability to the weakened legs of the stool.   Do/will you have all three legs in place and absolutely assured?   How long will you have to work for pay at what you are doing now?  Might you need or want additional income stream(s)?
  3. The elimination of entire segments of jobs, companies, and industries puts income security at risk.  What we studied in college and learned in the jobs we later held are no longer a guarantee of employability in the future.  How solid is the match between your skills/expertise and the emerging, in-demand jobs/gigs in today’s world of work for pay?   What have you done to update your employability and skill set?
  4. Many of our institutions—marriage, churches, healthcare systems, employee/employer partnerships, governments—have transformed, and in so doing weakened traditional safety nets.  With later-in-life divorces on the rise, the perceived value of churchgoing on the wane, healthcare costs rising, employers showing little loyalty to employees and government programs inadequate, that support has weakened. Can anyone or any institution be more responsible for you than you are?  Upon which institutions can you depend for your future?

The alternative

If the four-stage life model is outmoded, what should take its place?

I propose a six-stage model:

1. Childhood

2. Work/Education

3. Work/Family

4. Work/Extended Mid Life

5. Work/Leisure, and

6. Needs Help Elderly

What?  No retirement?   How unfair!   Well, not really.    Let’s get real here, one stage at a time.

Childhood.  Childhood used to be simple to identify.  Children were young and shorter and less mature.  And with years and height and experience, they grew out of it.  And left home.  Now it’s much more complicated.  Kids move out and often move back in, not always alone.   Employment problems, financial difficulty, marital problems, and saving money for education are only a few contributing factors.  While these kids may also be grownups, and living with parents on an extended basis prolongs the parent/kid bond, the jury is still out on the long-term impact on both the adult children and the aging parents.  For purposes of this blog I would like to define children as those dependent upon their parents for financial support, judgment and critical thinking, and guidance about crucial life choices.

Work/Education.  At some point in high school or before/during college, some experience of the world can make a huge contribution to the quality of learning and depth of maturity.  Malia Obama is going to take a “gap year” before going to Harvard as a freshman.   Gap year doesn’t mean empty time or a traditional job.  It means the space for transformative learning between academics-dominated periods of time.   Ms. Obama is not average, I admit, but she isn’t non-representative either.  My own 17-year-old granddaughter, Laura, will be living with my wife Linda and me this summer (a gap summer!) between her junior and senior years of high school.  She will be volunteering 2 days a week at a marine biology center and interning 3 days a week at a regional Women’s Resource Center.

In my day, work and education were considered separate realms.  Today, with technologies and integrated learning, I think they do and must overlap.

Work/Family.  Eventually Laura will complete college, find one or more good fits in the work for pay department (not necessarily a job), and join/form one or more bonded groups.   Some will be genetically connected and some won’t.   All may form a part of extended family.

Work/Extended Midlife.  If we’re going to live longer and healthier, we have a choice to make.  Do we want to add those years to our elderly period or would we like to add them to our midlife?  I vote for midlife.  Why?  Because the period between 50 and elderly can be the most rewarding of our lives.  We can do some of the most significant, creative, meaningful things in our lives at this time.  And we may want to consider a kind gap year for ourselves—not between high school and college or college and graduate school, but between careers.

Work/Leisure.  We may not be slowing down as we age, but there will be a shift in the balance between work (freelancing, entrepreneurial efforts, jobs) and leisure (volunteering, individual creative projects, athletics, hobbies, travel).  Certainly not a dead stop, as in one day fully employed, next day fully retired.   We’ll still be driven by the need for an income stream, extended belonging (which we often find at our place of work) and ongoing intellectual stimulation.

Needs Help/Older.  We may not be the first to realize we’ve reached the point where we need help in one or more aspects of our lives.  Regardless, denial may arise.  So may reality.  I think it’s a skill, certainly a graceful skill, to listen well to someone who thinks we need help and then make a clean, informed decision about it.  It’s an equally graceful skill to notice something about ourselves and ask for help.

The distribution of our lives over a longer time frame will require reorienting ourselves to altered realities and needs.  It will also mean surrendering models that are obsolete, and that can take tenacity and courage.

What are you doing in anticipation of your own future life?

 

Keeping Current

As my wife often remarks, she isn’t worried about me running off with a younger woman.  A younger woman wouldn’t understand a word I said.  My musical, political, historical and humor references would precede her by a number of years, possibly even extend to before she was born.

Still, I do try to stay current, thanks to my grandchildren, ages 4 to 16.  Through their encouragement I now have passing familiarity with Pentatonix, Rihana, Taylor Swift, Shakira, Pink, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.  (I already knew Lady Gaga because Tony Bennett introduced us to her through their duets on TV.)

I’ve seen the films Big Hero 6, Kung Fu Panda 3, Cinderella, Mirror Mirror, and Gnomeo and Juliet, among others.  I don’t always get the point,  but it doesn’t matter because I enjoy being with the grandkids so much. And I can also say “thank you” and “you’re welcome” in Cantonese.  I have the call to do so just about as often as I can find ways to work the above musicians and films into my repartee.

Now comes Fast Company to deal another reality blow to the remote possibility that I can keep up.  It’s one of the magazines I read in an attempt to stay current in our world of work, business, technologies and discontinuous change.  I just read that “Just nine months after investors placed a $10 billion valuation on WeWork, the office-rental company has raised another round of funding at a $16 billion valuation . . . [making] WeWork the sixth most valuable private company, eclipsing SpaceX and Pinterest.  On paper, WeWork is nearly as valuable as the largest publicly traded office real estate company, Boston Properties, which has a market cap of about $18 billion.”

Boston Properties is the only familiar name to me.  Pinterest I have encountered at some point.  WeWork and SpaceX?  What?  And on top of that, numbers in the multiple billions exceed my usually flexible imagination.

This is getting out of hand.  Or maybe it should be past tense.  This got out of hand some time ago.

I’ve decided to have a new tee shirt printed for myself.  On the chest it will say “No One Can Know It All.” On the back it will say “Including Me!”.   If I can’t hide it, I might as well go public with it.

Here’s my question to you: How are you trying to keep up? Or did you stop trying long ago?

Breaking (in) the Code

I admit it:  I can’t write code. I studied it a long time ago, back when computers weren’t portable and the Internet did not exist.  But I dearly need a refresher course.

Why is knowing how to code important for me, and for everyone who expects to be employed at some point in the future?  It’s because understanding the logic underlying code is fundamental to being a modern worker and citizen.

An article in Fast Company got me thinking about this.  Writing code is rapidly becoming a kind of literacy.  Yet few teachers can do it, much less teach it,  even though having this skill is at the same level of importance as being able to read and do math.

We’re already experiencing a sea change in teaching fundamentals.  Take writing.  First we learned block letters, then we printed, then we learned cursive writing.  That’s not how writing is being taught now.  I know really smart, highly educated teenagers today – in fact I am related to some of them – who can’t write a cursive sentence.

At first I was aghast.  Then I sat down and got real. How often do I actually write in longhand any more?  I don’t.  I type on my various electronic devices.  How often to I receive written communications in longhand any more?  Not very darned often.  My grandmother, whose stock in trade was graceful Thank You notes written on good stationery (preferably engraved with her initials) might struggle with the decline of cursive writing.  On the other hand, she was the major proponent of liberation (without giving up manners) during my childhood.  She might very well say “Oh, get over it.  Let’s learn to code together.”

And she would have a point.  Name one modern device or process that isn’t somehow computer-based or connected.  Your car?  Your hearing aids?   Your cell phone?  Your microwave?  Your home?  Your passing through security at airports?  Your tickets to sports and entertainment events?  Your grocery checkout process?  For me, not understanding anything about coding means being illiterate several times a day in the conduct of my normal life.

Multiply the implications of that ignorance by a factor of M (mucho) in the workplace.  If you’re an employer and a job applicant doesn’t understand the mechanism behind the tasks and processes that are key to the success of your business, do you want to hire him/her?   If that person is already an employee, can you afford to keep him/her on payroll long term?

Back to teachers.  If educators can drop teaching cursive writing, they can certainly add code writing and other basic computer science skills.  If they don’t, the next generations of students will be ill-equipped for their lives and for employment.

This is a shocking notion to me. What about you?

Read the full Fast Company article HERE

Revelation in Aisle 6

My 6-year-old granddaughter and I were at the grocery store, just the two of us.

She lives on the other side of the United States with her family.  Skype is a sorry substitute for spending time (in the flesh, not virtually) with her, her sisters, and her cousins.  So I have to make the most of every opportunity when we’re actually together, in person.

That means actively creating one-on-one opportunities – and perfecting the art of scheduling in kid lunches, kid movies (I have seen How To Train Your Dragon, Big Hero Six, Inside Out and Cinderella, among others) and trips to bounce houses. (I’ve also coached the younger set on how to shop in a bookstore. We practiced asking a clerk, “Who is the expert in kids’ books here?  What is new and cool for an X year old?” before going to the store. It worked out really well, by the way.)

Meanwhile, back at Publix, I offered to let her push the cart. She immediately went into a ballet pose (arms in an arch above her head) and said, “Oh Poppa, that is a lifelong dream of mine.” She has three extremely competent older sisters who normally take the helm.

So I let her push the cart with only occasional course corrections to avoid the man on crutches, the 8′ cereal box tower, and the stock boy innocently shelving coffee. All the while I was pondering how satisfying simple acts of love and kindness can be.

A few minutes later, she patted me on the arm and said, “I know you are going to die someday but not for a long, long, long time, like two years.  Don’t worry. I will always remember you.” Where that came from I do not know and don’t care. My smiling response: “Thank you. I am greatly relieved.”

If you get a chance for one-on-one time with your grandchildren, grab it whenever you can, wherever you are. These small moments have big impact, and not just for you.

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