Recently, I spent the better part of a week driving my young son and a family friend’s son to and from baseball camp. It was 45 minutes each way. That’s a lot of time to talk. But, even though I talk for a living, I felt strangely awkward addressing our friend’s son. I honestly ran out of things to say shortly after pulling out of the driveway.
He’s a great kid: very courteous, very smart and very much in love with baseball and Derek Jeter. But, I always get tongue tied when addressing a child who isn’t my own.
Maybe I’m bad at talking to kids because when I hear other people talk with my kids I want to punch them in the head. They ask insensate questions such as, “What grade are you in?” “How old are you?” and “Do you like ice cream?”
Seriously, my kids aren’t morons. Most of the time they are pretty capable conversationalists. It’s just that folks don’t give them a chance. I know the feeling. Whenever a co-worker’s child comes by the office to visit their mom or dad and they bring them by my office, I fall into the same line of generic questioning.
My wife is fantastic at talking with kids of any age. She has no trouble talking baby talk with babies, interacting with 4-year-olds and she’s still able to stay relevant with 12-year-olds. It’s an amazing skill … if only we could monetize it.
You’d think I’d be better at talking with kids who are in college, but I find myself going down the same path with them as well. I ask them some very generic questions such as, “What’s your major?” and “What do you want to do with your major when you graduate?”
At 45 years old, am I already that out of touch with anyone born after 1990? Then again, what do I really want to talk with them about? Do I really want to be one of those “cool” parents who wear American Eagle shirts and high-five their son’s friends or give them the “bro handshake?” Do I want to talk with my daughter’s friends about fashion and Lady Gaga? Uh, not really.
Of course, plenty of parents do. I see them everywhere. Not sure what’s going on there, but moms wearing bedazzled shirts, holey jeans and interacting with their daughter’s friends like, well, one of their daughter’s friends is pretty pathetic. Then again, so is the sports dad who wears the Affliction t-shirt and hangs with his son’s buddies. There are so many parents who desperately want to be their kids’ friends and their kids’ friends’ friends. They talk like they are actually scanning the web late at night studying up on what’s trendy with 8-year-olds.
I’m not impervious to this stuff. I, too, enjoy keeping up with what my kids are watching on TV (Phineas & Ferb for the boy, Good Luck Charlie for the girl), listening to on their iPods (Katie Perry and Bruno Mars for both) and wearing (Vera Bradley for the girl and whatever TCU gear I buy for the boy). But, these are my kids. I can high-five my kids, mix it up with them on our XBox 360 or even listen to their music from time to time. However, that’s where it stops. And that’s why I can’t see myself ever getting better talking with my kids’ friends or my co-workers’ kids. I really don’t want to be their friends. I actually would like them to call me Mr. Klancnik and a “sir” from time to time would be awesome. A handshake that doesn’t include a “dap” would be a welcome change and eye contact would be extra nifty.
If I sound like I’ve got a ragging case of Old Man’s Syndrome, that’s because I do. Deal with it. Next question.