Dear Miss Manners: A spring-break visit by my 14-year-old grandson was marred by his fascination with the handheld electronic toy he brought with him.
It seemed at every idle moment he’d be engrossed in some electronic competition, unwilling to respond to questions or participate in conversation.
Needless to say, his grandmother and I seriously wanted to engage him in discussions about the family, his future and other topics of interest.
When pressed to quit, he’d explain, “I’m not at save point yet” and would play on for a minute or so more before he would shut down the game.
I wouldn’t want to rob the boy his entertainment, but this was an insidious intrusion into our home and led to some strong words between us.
Short of running it over with the family car, what sort of electronic-game policy would Miss Manners suggest in future visits with the lad?
That is, if he’s ever willing to return.
Gentle Reader: Certainly no guest should escape – electronically or by other means – while his hosts are trying to entertain him.
But you will have to forgive Miss Manners for noticing that that was not exactly what you were doing.
You were trying to grill him.
A young person’s family and future are not likely to be what you call “topics of interest” for him to discuss, unless he brought them up himself, which does not seem to be the case here.
That they are topics of interest to his grandparents, Miss Manners does not doubt.
But just as your visitor had an obligation to you, you had one to him.
You are not going to lure him to return – at least not to return willingly – by reopening the electronics-game question.
What you should be doing instead is finding out from his parents what other interests he might have that you could reasonably share – a sport, a play or film, a board game, a sightseeing excursion – and issuing an invitation that he might find enticing.
You should also engage him in conversation about his interests, even if this means you have to listen to topics less thrilling to you than family gossip or his chances of becoming president.
If that toy appears, do not confiscate or deride it.
Instead, ask him to show you how it works.
That should get him talking and, with any luck, you may be able to move the conversation to other topics.
In any case, retreating behind a newspaper or otherwise cutting him off would be rude – the grown-up equivalent of what he did.