Dear Grandparenting: My grandchildren consider me to be “safe” because I can keep their secrets. I don’t tell on them to their parents, so they gossip freely in my presence. I am the expert about what makes them tick.
I have reached one inescapable conclusion. The most important thing in their lives isn’t their cell phone or computer. It isn’t a celebrity or professional sports team, or doing really well in class or athletics. What really matters is who they like or dislike, and who likes or dislikes them at the moment. School is one gigantic popularity contest.
It’s like my grandchildren spend more time batting around the latest on who’s “in” and “out” then doing homework. Such a waste of time and energy! I don’t recall ever being all that concerned about such stuff at any age. Is playing this popularity game typical for modern-day children? When does it stop? Duke Hernandez, Wappingers Falls, New York
Dear Duke: It would be difficult to overstate the hold that social media has on youthful America. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and friends, grandchildren swim in streams of digital gossip, often provocative or mean-spirited. Think of it as their daily soap opera, except the stars are friends and acquaintances, not actors.
It can make for compelling drama, if not for long. In high school, likeability may depend on traits that don’t play so well off campus, like social aggression and athletic prowess. In our increasingly diverse and uncertain real world, success swings more on an open mind to new experiences and social situations, coupled with some emotional strength.
Studies have concluded that between 15 and 20 percent of students that seek out a wider variety of encounters during high school will have that skill set. It happens to be a popular bunch too, because classmates can learn by observing such social mastery.
Another study holds out hope for popularity also-rans and social misfits. A yearlong survey of students ages 13-14 found that an individual assessment of one’s own popularity — and not what others might think — was the best predictor of their future social adjustment. If they figure they’ll fit in wherever, they likely will.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Greyhound from Kingsport, Tennessee, reports that he spied a “silver-haired lady” behind the wheel of a pickup truck with a rear bumper sticker that read, “I’m a Grandmother. What’s your superpower?”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.