Several years ago, on the popular comedy show Saturday Night Live, a skit was often presented called “Middle Aged Guy”. In this skit an overweight middle aged man was a super hero to come to the aid of young couples who don’t know basic things like how a 401K works or how to unplug a kitchen sink. It was a funny skit but it also pointed up something about aging that it’s important to remember. And that is that you are valuable to your kids and their families because there are things you know that they don’t know.
If Middle Aged Man has a treasure trove of knowledge about life and how to take care of problems, Senior Citizen Man (or Woman) can put him to shame in no time. It isn’t that you are necessarily that terribly smart or wise or gifted. But you have lived a full life. You have completed schooling, found a career, gotten married, had kids, managed investments and all of the details along the way. So you can be a valuable source of knowledge and advice to young people if they will just look your way for some help.
It’s hard when you are retired and your kids are getting started in life and you see them struggling. You want to do like you did when they were little and just step in and say, “Here. Let me fix that.” But this is their time to learn as they go and they need to have that experience of trying things, failing, trying again and finally winning.
Middle Aged Man seemed to focus on the little details of life that you do pick up along the way in life. But there are some serious issues of life that you also have a lot of wisdom about that you would like to pass along to the kids including…
§ How to deal with marriage problems. How to resolve the tough marriage struggles. Or if separation or divorce must happen, you may know a lot about how to get through that nightmare with some mutual respect and affection. § How to keep the lines of communications open to your children. § How to deal with adult temptations of fidelity, drugs, alcohol and other areas of excess that can destroy your life if you are not careful. § How to make quality decisions about friendship, religion, politics and ethics. § The value of loyalty, honesty and integrity in business and in your private dealings with others.
The problem is not in having this hard earned knowledge but in finding ways to impart it to your adult kids. How do you continue to keep the communications lines open now that your son or daughter are adults, dealing with family and work issues and just don’t have time to sit down and chew the fat with their old dad or mom? Well there are some ways you can give them access to your wisdom and enjoy some time of intimate discussion with them as well.
One great way to create communication opportunities with your married kids is to resurrect some tradition from their younger life. Perhaps find a way to take your son and grandson camping. Then around the camp fire, there is lots of time to share. Or arrange a girl’s only baking party. As you make lots of treats for the holidays, she can pour her heart out to her mommy.
Modern parents are very often computer savvy. So if your married son or daughter uses the computer a lot, they may be up to date on modern computer communications such as email and instant messaging. So if they are up on it, you can take a crash course in communications from the senior citizens center and get up to date yourself. Email and instant massaging can become highly interactive to where you can spend hours “talking” to your son or daughter online. And they can talk to you while working on the budget or doing other internet related activities. It’s an outstanding new technology way to stay in touch.
Above all make yourself available to your kids to come to you on their terms. If your son or daughter or their spouses know you are a source of unconditional love and non-judgemental advice, they can come and pick your brain and get access to the vast wells of knowledge that is there.