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Another Day in the Country

Spreading a little fertilizer

© Another Day in the Country

This week, my daughter called and said, “How about playing Jokers and Pegs on Facetime later this afternoon?”

I agreed that would be fun to do. It’s not so much about who wins or loses a game played in such a weird way but the conversations that take place in-between plays. Isn’t that true for most games we play?

My grandson was my partner. He looked less than enthusiastic, moving back from the game board, flopping around on the couch — you know how teenagers can be. My daughter sort of motioned with her head for him to sit up and pay attention. 

He came back into frame and said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not in a particularly good mood.”

Of course, we were curious as to what had brought on his frame of mind, and he said, “Well, I’m trying to write a 100-word essay about why I’m interested in taking a class on Zoom that I don’t particularly want to take.”

His school was offering extracurricular classes for students interested in anything to do with computer technology: graphics, coding, even protecting against cyber attacks. Space was limited, and Dagfinnr was tasked with explaining why he was interested in taking the class and why he thought he would be good at it. 

Now that’s a mouthful of information for a 14-year-old who has just started high school. I could understand why he was in a bad mood. He had been trying to write the essay but didn’t like how it sounded.

It seemed that the most difficult part was saying what he was good at doing.

“For good reason,” I told my daughter. “What kid this age knows themself? They’re supposed to be just figuring it out.” 

I doubt teenagers spend a lot of time thinking about what they naturally are good at. They’re much more aware of all the things they aren’t good at doing, probably because we remind them of it — often!

At least that was true for me. I can remember what I was like at that age — awkward, shy, hesitant, and fearful I’d be found lacking something significant, whether it was how I was built to understanding geometry.

As we chatted, we pitched in with ideas for what Dagfinnr might say.

“Isn’t that bragging?” my grandson wanted to know.

The next day, I was still thinking about the 100-word essay my grandchild was writing. While he was on my mind, I sent him a rather long text. I tend to be a wordy person, as you can tell by reading this column.

“I know we gave you a lot of advice,” I said to him, “but in the end, write it as you want to, say what you want to in your own words, and trust that you’ll learn something valuable in this experience. This is one of the ways you learn more about yourself.”

I didn’t think he’d answer. It wasn’t necessary. When I was his age, I probably would have thought any communication that long was what I called a “sermon.” But he did write back.

“I value your input, Baba,” he wrote.

I laughed to myself and texted back, “Well, there’s another good trait that you have: You’re diplomatic!” 

Some of you reading this column are probably thinking, “I’m glad I don’t have to write a 100-word essay about my strengths!” You’d probably find yourself hunting for words, mumbling to yourself, “What am I good at these days?”

As the older generation, I think we should ponder this subject and figure out a list for ourselves.

It’s important because, when we know our own strengths, we can more easily recognize the strengths of others. And I think it’s our job to mirror those positive traits and skills that we see in others — most especially those in our circle of family and friends.

Too often, our own fear for our kids and grandkids makes us more critical than affirming. Surely you remember what it was like to be a teenager. Even though it is much more complicated for today’s kids than it was for us, there’s still a similarity.

It’s just another day in the country, and we’re all hungry for positive affirmation, so let’s spread some around. It’s like manure on the field — enriching and stimulating growth!

Last modified Sept. 22, 2021

 

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