I began my teaching career in a secondary school. At parents’ evenings I would hear parental woes about their lives with teenagers. They would often ask the same question: ‘How do you stand being with them all day?’ My answer was always the same: ‘I love the honest teenage questions and the fierce but clear-eyed vision with which so many of them look at the adult world they are entering’. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there have not been nights that I have gone home from teaching exhausted, frustrated, and tearful. But the attraction of young company has never waned.
I’ve spent the last sunny (yes really!) week in Scotland with my son and daughter-in-law and six month old granddaughter who had her first meal of ‘solid’ food this week! The ‘wee one’ is taking the first steps on a path to the delights of food. Our son is temporarily ‘taking over’ primary care from our daughter-in-law in the early weeks of his paternity-leave. Adjustments for everyone. During the regular visits of our daughter and son-in-law and two slightly older grandchildren we get different insights into the pressures of balancing two pressured professional lives while preparing children for life in the 21st century. My son said to me this week, ‘It’s not the same world on any level in which you brought us up.’ I know that – in my head! But it’s always healthy to be reminded!
But this is not a blog about the delights of family life however real they might be. It’s a commendation of the benefits of inter-generational relationships. Of course, some of those benefits involve challenges. They require serious conversations and mutual honesty. Our family is no exception to that rule. But, although they may not always feel like it, those conversations are some of the benefits!
We’ve been privileged – and we don’t use that word lightly - to spend our lives in a community of young people. As two people who have always believed that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ we have always found that young people offer a major route into that examination. These days we don’t have everyday face to face contact. But we still benefit from their insights at church and other get-togethers. And we need that. And, unless they are flattering us, some of the younger people recognise that they do too! TV programmes show the benefits of inter-generational contacts for babies and the residents of care homes. Researchers on inter-generational church growth have shown their benefits for faith formation. An intention to be an integral part of the human family – or in religious terms - the ‘family of God’ can enrich the lives of old and young, single and married, parents and the childless.
Our former neighbour, a single lady, has recently moved to a ‘Renaissance home’. She has very few close relatives to keep an eye on her. Her new apartment will provide her with physical security, some important services and proximity to shops, surgery and other amenities. We think it will give her a new lease of life, as its name promises. And maybe that route will be for us one day. But we hope that we will never lose the chance to find enrichment in the company of young people!