Question: My husband James and I have been married for 42 years. We have traveled everywhere. Even though we’re both in good health, James doesn’t want to travel anymore. He loves gardening, playing card games with his friends and going to the local senior center. I too like gardening and going to the senior center and I still want to travel. Would it be appropriate for me to join a travel group and travel without him? He says it’s okay with him, but many of my friends don’t think I should. What do you think?
You both have traveled everywhere throughout your life. Your husband isn’t interested anymore. He also has many hobbies and friends. Travel can be very exhausting so I understand that he wants to stay home and enjoy his retirement. You want to continue traveling. Traveling with a tour is a good bet. He says it’s okay. So I say go ahead. “Absence” (distance) makes the heart grow fonder!
Let’s see. You have been married for 42 years and that means unless you tied the knot in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, you are at least 60 years old. Congratulations on such an enduring marriage! It also means that, with age, you have to work a little harder to maintain your neuroplasticity; doing things that refresh and challenge your brain so that you stay sharp and cut down on those “senior moments.” That both you and James get your hands dirty in the garden and visit with your rowdy friends at the senior center is excellent. Going to a movie that might not be aimed at your demographic, doing crosswords and other puzzles, taking classes and giving yourself the credit to change your mind now and then as new information becomes available are also activities that keep your brain young and springy.
One of the greatest sparks to increasing neuroplasticity is travel, so if you love it you should find a way to do it. And it sounds like James is an encouraging partner, even if he no longer likes to travel, for whatever reason. You are going to come back buzzing from your trip so that might light a fire under James to accompany you the next time, plus you can encourage him to try something new while you’re away, like visiting a local museum that is new to him, taking a different route when he walks, listening to a new radio station or cooking a new dish.
One thing that might help with your husband’s neuroplasticity is if you come back speaking a different language. That will force him to create new neural pathways and teach him to come with you next time. I hope you have a great trip and that James has dinner waiting for you when you return.
Question: We have two beautiful grandchildren, both boys, ages 5 and 7. They stayed with us while their parents were on a cruise. We attend church every Sunday and took the boys with us. They had a great time; however, their parents weren’t happy. What we didn’t know is that their family hasn’t been going to church but now the boys are begging their parents to go because they liked Sunday school so much. This isn’t a major blowup, but we really don’t understand because our daughter and her husband were raised going to church and had a church wedding.
Is it time for a discussion with the parents or should we just not say anything? ~ Puzzled Grandparents
Dear Puzzled Grandparents,
I don’t know enough about your relationship with your daughter and son-in-law to be able to advise you whether to have a discussion or not. If I was talking in person to you I would ask questions like: “How do most of your discussions go?” “Do they end in a blowup or a mutually acceptable conclusion” “Have your daughter and son-in-law drifted away from the church because of the busyness of life or are they open hostile to church” “Are they upset because they don’t want their children to be exposed to anything to do with Christianity or are they upset because your grandchildren want to add another activity to their busy schedule?”
Thinking about these and similar questions will help you decide whether a discussion would be appropriate and helpful.
If you decide that a discussion might be productive then it would be important to base that discussion on mutual respect. When our children become adults, they will make their own decision about their faith as well as many other areas of their lives. While we may disagree with those decisions, we need to respect their choices. If they have wandered from the faith then the best thing we can do for them is to pray for them. At the same time your daughter must know, having grown up in your home, that your faith and your involvement in church is an important part of your life. And she should be aware of and respect that. You probably have other ways that you engage in your faith, such as prayers before meals, Bibles and other religious artifacts around the house, etc. If they ask you to take care of your grandchildren, it seems reasonable to me that she and your son-in-law must have known that this, including church attendance, is part of your life, your values and your identity.
Respect also involves active listening and trying to determine why this has upset your daughter and son-in-law. Asking a question such as “Help me understand why this is upsetting you. I assumed you knew that we attend church on Sundays and that we couldn’t leave the grandkids at home unattended.” And then listen. Validate their point of view, but also ask them to respect your values and faith. Were they expecting you to compromise your faith by skipping church? Did they forget that you still are active in church?
How you ask these questions are, of course, is very important. If you are sincerely open to respecting and listening to each, then the opportunity to reach a mutually acceptable solution is very possible.
You sound like wonderful grandparents and being part of your grandchildren’s lives is a wonderful blessing to them and to you. Best of luck in seeking the best course of action in this difficult situation.
Pastor Bill Flanders
Dear Puzzled Grandparents,
As you know, parents are the ones to make all decisions for their children, short of abuse of course, even when we might not agree. I believe that we have the right to bring up a conversation with anyone as long as it’s gentle, respectful and phrased in a way that shows you would simply like to understand their thoughts on a topic. Unless your daughter has told you to stay out or their business or closed the door on this topic, I think you are free to inquire. If you phrase it as a “curious question” as opposed to a judgmental interrogation, the conversation could be simple and pleasant.
You might find out information that you weren’t even thinking of. Perhaps they wanted to be asked first? It is very important that you are prepared to receive an answer that doesn’t set well with you. The best thing you can do if that does occur is to tell them, “I respect your wishes. Thank you for speaking with me about it.” We rarely win anyone over by arguing, disagreeing or pushing them. Remember, you do have power in this situation in one area – and that is prayer. The prayers of the righteous are strong. And God will continue to move in a much more effective way than we ever could!
Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian