Day trips, alfresco dinners and family vacations are great, but if you want to really connect with your kid this summer, offer an opinion
about things like who would win a fight between Superman and the Hulk.
Written byMichael Goldman
Illustrated byChristine Georgiades
Last year, on the final night of the NBA season, my teenage sons and I unintentionally woke my exhausted wife with shouting. When she wandered in to ask what the racket was about, we explained that Kobe Bryant, in the final game of his career, was on the verge of scoring 50 points in an otherwise meaningless season-ending game. We sternly warned her not to touch the crystal water glass sitting on the middle of the hardwood floor directly in front of the TV, as we precariously jumped around it. She took no offense at our superstition. If she moved something, then maybe Kobe’s miraculous final game would suddenly go south. So she left it there, sat on the couch, smiled, yawned and watched the rest of the game with us. Kobe ended his career with 60 points; our entire family went to bed satisfied.
Her understanding of our idiosyncrasies made me recall an encounter my oldest son and I had in a public park when he was small. We were engaged in a spirited debate over who would win a fight between Superman and the Hulk. At some point, a mother with a boy about my son’s age interrupted to tell me she wished she could have such conversations with her son. She said she didn’t know anything about the Hulk or Superman, and she worried she wouldn’t be able to bond with her son.
I suggested she buy comic book reference guides, watch cartoons and movies, and ask her son to explain stuff to her. I said the point wasn’t the quality or depth of her knowledge. It was to make the effort. She promised to give it a try.
My wife, Bari, is always giving it a try. For 17 years, she has tolerated an unfairly male-dominated culture in our home. She gets facts and figures wrong, mixes up her sports, dozes off at critical game moments, but the point is, she exhibits a willingness to participate. Our sons are now an active 17 and 14, and she’s a sometimes-tired, always hard-working mom, yet she still finds pockets of time to watch The Flash with us and offers occasional opinions on the Lakers.
I’ve often wondered how I would have done if the shoe were on the other foot. I grew up reading comics and obsessively following sports. What would I have done with two girls? I don’t know anything about fashion or hairstyles. I’d like to think I would have followed my wife’s example.
We parents can go crazy scheduling our kids during summer—with the goal of avoiding idle, nonproductive time. But I’d like to suggest another goal for the months when school is out: bonding with your child. And a great way to achieve that is by focusing on their interests—even if they seem silly or aren’t in your wheelhouse. Heck, use Google as a source of information. Within seconds, I guarantee you’ll come up with 10 excellent conversation starters. Strategically pick moments (avoid hungry, tired and internet immersed) and initiate discussions with your child about things that matter to them. He or she won’t care that you looked the stuff up, but they will care that you made the effort.
And for the record, should it come up, it’s my view that Superman would whip the Hulk—he’s just smarter.
Michael Goldman is a freelance writer and book author who tries to keep up with his sons, Jake and Nathan. Find out more about Michael at hollywood-scribe.com.
Paying it forward.