Grandparents - The Great Alaskan Guides
By: Kevin Reardon
Sometimes in life things just hit you. Like when my wife and I looked across the dinner table at our 3 teenage sons, all in need of a shave, and realized that they aren’t kids any more. When they started talking about a sticky high school ethical issue, it was interesting to hear their perspectives and rationale behind how they would handle the situation. Each used logic in their decision making; but my wife and I had hoped they would have come to a deeper and more values-based solution. We wanted to challenge them to dig deeper, without them thinking it was our idea to dig deeper (everyone knows what bad ideas moms and dads have). Then it hit me (again)… and I asked them WWGGT?... “What would grandma and grandpa think?” Their eyes widened (eyes do this when a person starts digging deeper) as they realized that their solutions wouldn’t pass the grandparent test.
As the boys slipped away from the dinner table that night, it became apparent they had already begun the process of slipping out of our house toward adulthood. Had we done enough to instill in them our values? Would they make good decisions when faced with challenging situations? Was there any way to insert a permanent voice inside their head that challenges them to dig deeper? Was it was time to call in the heavy hitters, The Grandparents?
Most definitely. But how could we trap 3 teenage boys with their grandparents for a lengthy period of time and call it fun? After hearing of a client’s recent family trip to Alaska, the plan was set in motion! Both sets of grandparents quickly jumped at the chance of vacationing with their grandchildren (and me and my wife) on a journey through the inland passage of Alaska. The boys’ selling point: lots and lots of food.
Having just returned from our 10 day vacation, I can tell you it was not only fun, but our primary mission was accomplished. It began with an 8 hour bus ride from Anchorage to Denali National Park. Grandma Mary sat next to our 19 year old, Jay, and quietly talked to him about his future. She listened intently, having heard from 7 of her own children the bogus answers that a 19 year old will offer. She saw through the smoke screen and was able to poke and prod and cajole in a way that mom and dad couldn’t. By the end of the bus ride, Jay was filled with career goals and aspirations he thought were his own. Thank you Grandma Mary!
Our 17 year old, Cal, is starting his senior year of high school, with college on the very near horizon. His college selection process has been limited to sorting through the college brochures that arrive in the mail… with his only sorting bin being of the garbage can variety. Sitting next to Cal on the train, grandpa asked him about college and what comes after high school. When Cal proclaimed he was going to skip college and focus on being a ‘cat rancher,’ Grandpa went to work. Skipping the lecture, grandpa asked Cal what was holding him back. Cal felt comfortable telling grandpa that he was scared because he didn’t know what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Grandpa assured him that college was a process of discovery and an opportunity to explore many interests before deciding on a major. He went further, explaining that even upon graduation it’s important to pursue a lifetime of learning, growing, and searching out things that peak our curiosity. Over the course of a few hour train ride, Cal’s view of college changed from a necessary evil to a lifetime of wonder. Score one for Grandpa!
Some teenagers can be full of energy and bounce off the walls with enthusiasm. My kids are way too cool for that. Instead, we can rely on at least one of them to act depressed and disinterested every time my wife and I plan a great outing. Such was the case when we went to a themed dinner party on our trip, complete with singing and dancing wait staff. As our 14 year old went into his “I hate this” mode, his grandmother recognized his all-too familiar look. Her solution was to start serenading him, with the entire restaurant thinking her song was part of the Act. John turned beet red in embarrassment, and grandma was able to quickly get him back ‘online.’ Afterwards, she explained to him that it’s easy to sit on the sidelines of life, but more rewarding to participate in the opportunities in front of us. By that point in the trip, the score was Grandparents, 12 – Grandkids, 0. A complete victory for everyone involved.
Of course, the biggest lesson from the grandparents was for me and my wife. We never explained to them what our ulterior motives were when we booked the trip (that they were to serve as coaches and mentors to our kids). But it hit us (like that proverbial brick) by the end of the trip that the Grandparents had been willing participants from the start. It just goes to show they can still teach us a thing or two!
We often hear that Family is what matters most. Absolutely! Our goal is to help focus your finances on the people that matter most to you. If we do that for you, you’ll be able to not only live with financial peace of mind, but also have more time and opportunity to pass on the family values that are most important. Time to schedule a Family Movie Night!