If you haven’t read Malani Fenner-Smith’s “How My Crazy Pandemic Summer Turned Into a Time of Self Care and Self-Discovery,” please take a look at that first, and then join us here!
I was able to spend some special time this summer with Malani, my oldest granddaughter. The arrangement was that she would be an intern with Maxwell’s Playbook, and I would be her “mentor.” We worked together to identify assignments that she had to complete, matching my needs with her knowledge and abilities.
I also challenged her to work on enhancing some of her life skills. She’ll be going to college in two very short years, and I’d like to help prepare her where I can. Layer the filter of a pandemic over all of that and….perhaps you can imagine how it turned out. Except that, it wasn’t what I expected.
Malani and her mom lived with us for most of her life, so we’ve always shared a close relationship. I’ve watched her grow from a newborn infant to a self-assured, almost 16-year-old. We’ve been there for Malani for all of her birthdays, school activities, vacations, shopping trips, etc. A few years ago, her mom purchased her own home (Yay for her!!) and the two of them moved out. Fortunately, they live nearby and we see them frequently. Still, I wasn’t prepared for how self-assured she had become. While I thought that I would be the teacher this summer, what surprised me was how much I learned from and about her! Here’s what she shared with me:
- Carefully crafted self-care. This is not an afterthought for Malani. It is part of her routine. I’m glad to see that she’s doing this at such an early age so that she doesn’t grow up always putting herself last. My lesson from her was the apple cider vinegar with the “mother” concoction that she makes every morning. I’d heard variations of it, but it was something about sharing that beverage with her every morning that made drinking vinegar tolerable. I even looked forward to it and would leave her half a lemon if I had breakfast earlier than she did.
- Entertaining and planning. This teen is a great hostess! (I’d like to think that she picked up a few tips from me :). The pandemic has meant movie nights at home instead of at the local theater. Malani found ways to engage everyone from 6 to 60 in choosing movies to watch. What about the snacks, popcorn, desserts, and whatever else was needed to enjoy an evening in? Of course, she’d planned ahead, meaning that she’d added what she needed to the grocery list. But she prepared and served everything just like the perfect hostess. She’s also very good at planning vacations, complete with vision boards and all the apps that you’ll need; more on that when it’s safe enough to travel!
- Resilience. At times Malani had to deal with some significant challenges. Still, she never displayed impatience, disappointment, or seemed to be disillusioned. Especially as a mid-teen, she must have felt that way. I looked for signs and would not have been surprised or disappointed if I had seen them. Malani is smart enough to find outlets where she can express her feelings, and she accepts advice, ultimately coming to the right decision. She keeps calm and carries on! We should all handle things as well.
- Laughter. One of the best sounds that I heard this summer was Malani’s laughter. It is no longer the laugh of a child that we’d heard for many years. She now has the tone of a seasoned teen who gets the inside jokes and laughs pleasantly at ridiculous conversation but who also lets out a natural belly laugh when she feels like it. And we all needed to hear that, particularly during these gloomy months.
- TikTok Switch Challenge. We actually kicked off our time together with a Tik Tok Switch Challenge that Malani orchestrated. With the abruptness of everything closing, we were looking for creative ways to keep everyone entertained. Doing something new together was too much fun, and you couldn’t tell us that we weren’t JLo and ARod 😅!
- Splice. Malani also tried to teach me how to use the Splice app to make videos on my iPhone. Note that the operative word is “tried.” Knowing how to help me do the things that I couldn’t is how she wrangled an internship!
It was productive and fun to have Malani work on Maxwell’s Playbook alongside me these last few months. It was a terrific learning experience for both of us, and we plan to continue working together. In fact, one of our future goals for Maxwell’s Playbook is to develop a component for teens and young women. I’m excited about having Malani’s ideas and involvement in bringing this to life!