I remember playing baseball (under duress) in both Little League and at summer camp. When we were in field, the coach would always yell, “Let’s hear some chatter!” The other boys would then respond, yelling things like “No batter, no batter.” I tried, but, I couldn’t. It didn’t feel right, or comfortable. I just didn’t feel “it” and I was sure that everything I said would sound as phony to everyone else as it did to me. I think this may be an introvert thing, but I’m not sure.
Flash forward fifty or so years. Now I am a grandfather and I’m struggling with a similar situation. I have two adorable granddaughters whom I love intensely (if you were here, I would show you pictures and bore you with stories). One is almost three years old, the other is almost a year old, and I have absolutely no idea how to interact with them.
The younger one is a bit easier. She is trying to walk, so I give her a hand and she smiles up at me as she practices. Otherwise, I follow her around, roll balls at her, stack blocks for her to knock down and make faces. It seems to work most of the time. When she seems unhappy, I hand her to her mother. If you’ve had children or grandchildren, you know what I am talking about.
The almost-three-year-old is harder. She is clever, imaginative, creative and very verbal. She also demands a lot of attention. I try, but it always seems to fall flat. I have a deep, droning voice, so she quickly get bored if I read to her (though I do enjoy the books). I sing so poorly that I will only sing in shower (so I can’t hear it), so we can’t sing songs together; when we tried, it feel very flat (no own intended…) We do sometimes do Legos together, but as an engineer I, without thinking, try to do everything for her (so it will be right), and again, she gets bored (though I do enjoy the Legos). Also, it is very hard for me to stay engaged in kids things for very long without getting bored myself. In other words, I feel as if I am back in center field. I just don’t feel “it.” Much as I love these girls, I find myself staying a bit in the background and letting my wife do the main interaction; she is as brilliant at it as I am dull.
I try to stay engaged to the best of my abilities so that I will have a relationship with the girls. I am hoping that as the girls get older, it will get easier. My daughter came into my life at about eight years old when my wife and I became engaged. Somehow, I always found a way to communicate with her, and we forged a very strong and loving relationship. So I’m hoping that I am laying some groundwork, and, with time, the girls and I will find common ground. Meanwhile, I do my best, but mostly stay a bit in the background mumbling the grandparental equivalent of, “No batter, no batter…”