It's always a thrill to get together with our grown kids and their kids, to be absorbed, however temporarily, into their family routine and culture. For those of us whose grown children live beyond the reach of a casual Sunday dinner, the visits in and of themselves are gifts. So, when something extraordinary or insightful happens, the gift moves into the treasure category.
What could be more of a treasure than to hear our high-school aged grand kids use their critical faculties in ways that open our eyes to their understanding of the world and how it works.
We had such a treasure when our son and his family were visiting us for a weekend this summer. The reason for the visit: a soccer tournament in which the oldest grandchild's team was participating. Weather being weather and thunderstorms being a tournament buzz kill, we ended up sitting around our living room amid the wreckage of cancelled games.
Our son had in hand 16 essays from finalists for a small stipend for their freshmen year in college. He read them aloud to get our critical input, with our grandkids as additional in-house critics.
We adults brought to our comments on the short essays, which were written by kids who were graduating from inner-city high schools and who had lived in and with poverty. We were going to advise as to which three finalists should win the stipend. To the task, we adults brought the wisdom of our life experiences but also our unconscious biases. Our two teenage grands are closer to the ground--closer in age to the kids writing the essays about their life experiences and to teen life in general. They were much more understanding of some of the shortcomings in the essays, and surprisingly harsher on others. One exceptionally well-crafted essay they suspected of leaning on a formula of what one was supposed to say. A less elegant but emotionally direct essay they saw as an authentic reflection of obstacles this youngster had to overcome and where he hoped to go in life--not necessarily to a place that we, as adults, saw as aspirational enough.
I was struck by the seriousness of purpose our grands applied to the task and their ability to understand the essayists at a level where we as adults had to struggle.
The lesson I took away from this: As grandchildren grow into teens and young adults they have points of view that add to our understanding of the world, though we usually think it's the other way around.