Young people can enrich and inspire us

Ruth Goode stated: ‘Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends — and hardly ever our own grown children’.  

I have always been an advocate for young people, from primary schools up to tertiary level.

Young people inspire me. I am in awe of their capacity to enjoy life. They‘re worry warts at times but still manage to sleep so deeply that the loud roaring of a garbage truck outside their window won’t waken them.

Our oldest grandson, who lives in Melbourne, rang to ask Rob and I if he could stay with us while he did a week’s work experience at Keech Castings in Bendigo – he is interested in one day perhaps studying engineering. Tomorrow it may be something different, but for today, engineering it is.

He’s a typical sixteen-year-old teenage boy, sloping casually along with that cool, laconic air. Nonchalance is his second name. If he was anxious he wasn’t about to admit it. The fridge was full and primed, ready to go.

I was reminded of that famous Ogden Nash description of young men ‘Hands in pockets, cap over eye, whistling at pullets passing by’.

Clearly his mum had taken him off to dress him appropriately as a young budding engineer. Come the first morning and price tags were snipped, a pair of hard shoes extracted from the bottom of the bag, and he was off, lunch made and ready to face his first day of work experience.

Charlie loved the whole week. Brendan at Keech’s took responsibility for his welfare at the foundry. He was very well looked after.

As for us, his grandparents, we could have kept him forever. It was wonderful to have a young person once again in our home, even though most of his waking hours when not at work were spent on his phone or iPad. We were a minor intrusion on his world.

Feedback was minimal but sufficient...enough to know he was happy and engineering simply ‘cool’.

I learnt so much during that week about this young generation, Generation Z.

Charlie assured me he didn’t watch television. As Rob and I earnestly sat through our evening news programs and whatever followed, Charlie was cheerfully ignoring all the terrible news of the day while furiously texting with a soporific look on his face (he’s in love of course, as one can only be at 16, totally and completely).

He disappeared into his bedroom all evening to spend it communicating with the wider world of the suburb where he attends school.

He assured me every time I asked him if there was a particular program he would like to watch, that he never watched TV at home. Probably most disconcertingly he doesn’t read very much these days either, yet he was a prolific reader once.  

Social media has taken over his life at present, but I’m confident that when he is through this intense social media stage he will return to reading. It will happen.

We have treasured our time with this beautiful young man. He reinforced my belief in young people.  It would be great if other grandchildren in the family chose work experience in Bendigo.

There are plenty of opportunities here. Meanwhile as he left to return to his family it was sufficient to receive a huge hug of appreciation and farewell from a six-foot teenage beanpole.