How young is too young?

Joey Garcia

My 15-year-old granddaughter is dating a college sophomore, and her parents approve. I am outraged. When I met this boy, I did not know they were dating, but he seemed well-mannered. However, he is too old for my very immature granddaughter. This boy received an athletic scholarship, and my daughter and ex-son-in-law (they are divorced) think he is headed for the pros. Yesterday, a family friend said that my granddaughter and this boy have spent the night together with parental permission. I wouldn’t put this past my son-in-law, who wants to be friends with his kids and tends to date men who are far too young for him. (He is gay, thus the divorce.) I want to intervene, but I am uncertain what to say or do.

Say, “You are powerless,” but do it while looking into a mirror. This strengthens your ability to avoid manipulating anyone into a direction you prefer. Realizing you have very little control in this family drama grants you the freedom to be wise and compassionate. After all, your granddaughter imagines herself in love. Telling her she is too young only renders you too old to understand.

Here’s a healthier strategy: Listen to her. Push your judgments out of the way. Solicit her stories about how she met this young man, what they do on dates and their plans for the future. Ask her if she trusts him and whether she feels more focused on what he is doing in college or on her own high-school activities. Inquire lovingly. Sprinkle advice from your life or guidance collected from poetry and self-help books throughout these conversations. Share what has worked and what has failed in your own relationships. Be someone who is real and honest in her life.

Many teens fail to confide in their parents because teens want to avoid experiencing a parent’s disappointment. If your granddaughter’s behavior disappoints you, don’t shame her. That typical parental response stunts everyone’s growth. Instead, clearly state what she did well, what she did poorly, what you hope she will do in the future and the consequences for her poor choice in the current instance. Then follow through completely on the consequences. Keep it simple, sweetie!

As for your daughter and son-in-law, don’t waste your energy trying to change their minds about whether the relationship is right or wrong. They have allowed it to proceed and are unlikely to change to appease your concern. It’s your job now to guide your granddaughter into awareness of whether this relationship is really best for her.

I am a self-employed consultant. Sometimes, even in the middle of projects, I turn off my cellphone and email and do not return to them for hours or even the next day. I usually do this when I have been working for many hours straight and need a break. The problem is, when I am confronted about not being available, I end up blathering a weak excuse that sounds like a lie. (It is.) I wonder if you could offer a snappy comeback I could use.

“Yes!” That’s my snappy comeback.

When someone asserts, “You weren’t available all day yesterday,” be agreeable. Say, “Yes, that’s right.” When they persist, add, “You are correct, and I am available now. How can I help?”

Don’t feel guilty for stepping off the hamster wheel. Allowing space for sanity to prevail is an essential skill of a healthy human being. Of course, it is also an act of kindness to communicate your absence. Emails in should generate an automatic “out of the office” response and so should voicemail. Managing your time away will liberate the guilt that results in your “blathering.”

Meditation of the week
“I believe in shitty first drafts. Perfectionism is the oppressor,” wrote Anne Lamott. If you apply this bit of wisdom to your life, can you forgive yourself for those first-draft jobs or relationships and celebrate this moment now?

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