Readers of this column know that I am a big advocate of intergenerational relationships and, in particular, father-(adult) son activities as a source of inspiration for healthy living.
I’ve used milestone events with my sons, like our trip to the NFL Draft and last year’s Eagles-Raiders game, as case studies in building father-son bonds. Aside from these occasional marquee adventures, this past week I was reminded of the value of maintaining a cadence of lower-profile, but perhaps even more important, connections.
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Yes, there is motivation in the mundane of a simple boys night out.
The power of anticipation
It started with the realization that it had been a several weeks since Anthony, Steve and I grabbed a meal together and caught up with what’s happening in our lives. But finding a free night in our busy lives is not a slam dunk by any means. Neither of my sons could gather in the coming week, but both had availability the following week. So though I had to wait a bit, their commitment officially placed the dinner on my “anticipation registry,” an internal checklist of upcoming events for which I look forward.
Though it was just a dinner, knowing that I’d be hanging with them provided a dose of excitement, what I’ve termed a “micro-motivator” and consistent with my October 2020 column on the power of anticipation. As the days passed, and I navigated the ups-and-downs of work, home and the like, the dinner served as a beacon of inspiration.
When the day arrived, it’s was our regular 6 p.m. rendezvous at our favorite restaurant, Giumarello’s. The conversation ranged from work, to my grandson’s venture into first grade, Philly sports and the latest headlines. Yes, sometimes the talk turns to the personal and professional challenges we face, but that’s probably the biggest benefit of these gatherings. Whether it’s the boys sharing a struggle that they are experiencing, or me soliciting their opinion, it’s a platform of mutual support and unconditional love. A point in which we all take comfort.
The dialogue is a little bit reporting, some tactically-delivered advice and, for sure, updating dad on current trends. It’s fun, informative, supportive and always motivating. For guys that are not quite there yet, trust me, it’s a very cool experience. It’s one where you can literally feel the bonds with your kids strengthening right in front of you. It’s amazing how something as simple as a meal can serve as so much more.
What the experts say
It turns out my experience with these pop-up dinners and the inspiration I feel from time spent with the boys is consistent with what the experts report.
According to the Legacy Project at Cornell University, parents are just as concerned about their adult children as they were when their children were young. Parents with older children interviewed for the Project indicated that they remain equally fixated on their children’s happiness as adults, but suggested that interactions with adult children must be much more subtle, so that they do not feel imposed on or judged.
The Mayo Clinic tells us that healthy relationships, including those with family and loved ones, can be a great source of love, comfort and support. And, writing in the Journal of Parenting Science and Practice, researchers Von Jessee and Kari Adamsons tell us that “patterns of father involvement and the quality of father-child relationships tend to be passed down across generations.” Based on their writings, and their reference to something called social learning theory, these influences appear to extend to the father-son relationships with adult children, as well as the influence of a grandfathers.
Their point rings true for me. I observed first-hand the loving influence on my kids from my own late father. To this day, they share stories about their “Dida” that warm my heart. For me, I’m hoping that, when he’s ready, my grandson Luca will join his father, uncle and me at our dinners and become part of the tradition.
Life’s small moments
I think of these micro-motivating dinners as a contributing element of a larger model which forms my relationships with Anthony and Steve. While more common than some of our big-ticket excursions, I believe that life is very much about making the most of the small moments. The ability to mitigate the drudgery we all experience with injections of social inspiration is what gets us through the day and maintains our well-being.
In my case, the boys play a big role. For you, it could be a child, your spouse, a foster child, a good friend, or even a volunteer position or encore career. Its not so much about any specific source as it is about having something or someone that lights a fire in your belly and, serves as an entry in your anticipation registry when you’re scheduled to see them or engage in an activity.
While stories about milestone events are the standard at holiday parties and family gatherings, it’s the more ordinary habits that keep us going. Much like our ligaments connect our bones and organs, a robust portfolio of routine social activities can maintain our motivation in between life’s major occurrences. These connections can fuel the health and happiness we all seek. Yes, there is motivation in the mundane. You just need to find it.
Louis Bezich, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Cooper University Health Care, is author of “Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50.” Read more from Louis on his website.