As a baby boomer parent, I have been fascinated since the 1970s as to if/how/why, we, as a generation, are different from the previous generations of parents. We all have stories of what our folks told us to do and not to do, like, “Don’t roll your eyes back or they’ll stay that way!” “You can’t go swimming for one hour after you eat or you’ll drown!” “Don’t say how pretty the baby is or the evil eye will get her! Kine-ahora!” Remember? And did you believe them when they told you to stop standing on your head for so long or all the blood will rush out of your eyes and mouth and you’ll die? Of course you did! So how many of us have been afraid, ever since we were little, of some of the things our parents told us?
And how did the 1950s and 60s mold us? Did Rock Around the Clock and Elvis swiveling his hips really take us to hell? Did the Vietnam War, bra burning, the Beatles and women’s equality define our generation and put us on a journey that framed how we lived our lives? Did all these events leave imprints on us and shape how we raised our kids? If you have answers and opinions to these questions, let me know!
In the last few years I’ve had conversations with more than a few Baby Boomer parents who don’t stop kvetching about their adult kids, with the most often asked question, “When are they going to grow up and be responsible?” And I’m not referring to 20 year olds but late 30 and 40 year olds with kids almost teens! Some of whom have moved back home several times since college claiming, “It’s only for awhile!” and suddenly we are cooking for more people than we’re used to and the laundry has doubled! “I thought I was done!” I’ve heard so many contemporaries screech!
Of course, there are many, many of our kids who are wonderful, responsible and reliable adults who pay their bills on time and teach lovely manners to their kids who only need us to baby sit on Saturday nights so they can have a date night! And that’s our pleasure! But I’ve had some of my friends say, “What if we want to go out on Saturday night? Do we refuse them or are we always on-call?”
Anybody see the Billy Crystal/Bette Midler movie Parental Guidance? Loved it! Especially when the adult daughter says to Billy Crystal, after he sort-of yells at his grandson, “Dad, we don’t talk to our kids that way!”
Ahhhh! Is that one of the problems? Today parents don’t yell at their kids! No one gets potched on the tusch or hears, “Wait till your father gets home!” It’s a different parenting style! We are more concerned with a child’s feelings and emotions. We dare not insinuate their self-esteem to be anything less than 10 with 10 being perfect! I believe the phrase “Good job!” has been overused! What if it was NOT a good job? What if the kids knows it wasn’t a good job and he thinks we are lying to him to just build his self-esteem? Why are we so afraid to interrupt his perfect world and tell him he needs to improve his job?
(Interesting new book by NCAA Coach Bob Knight, The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results. He says “The greatest leaders anticipate and prepare for a negative scenario and succeed by expecting things to go wrong but have a realistic strategy that takes all potential obstacles into account for turning into a positive result.”)
Another ahhhh. Is that another one of the problems, perfect? Have we not taught our kids that life is rarely perfect? I remember when I’d cry to my Mom during the summer, “I have nothing to do!” and she had two stock answers that lasted all summer: “I’ll hire you a marching band!” (The Music Man was on Broadway that summer) or, my favorite, “Ga shluv your kop in the vunt!”—“Go hit your head on the wall!” No one carpooled me or set up scheduled play-dates, I got on my bike after lunch, went to a friend or several friends and didn’t come home till [5:00] when the Mickey Mouse Club was on!
No cell phones then but I must admit, if I went to one friend’s house and then to a different one, I had to call home and tell my Mom where I was. And do you know why? Because my Dad had warned my Mom how she was to find all three of us kids when the air-raid sirens went off because the Russians were bombing us! And if there was anything over a 6.0 earthquake, she had to stay home and not drive around the neighborhood looking for us! He would. Boy, did I grow up being afraid of Russians and earthquakes!
Ahhhh! What are our kids, or grandkids, afraid of? Surely you haven’t told them blood will rush out of their eyes and mouth when they are at their Wednesday gymnastics class! We know they are not afraid of their teachers or the rabbi let alone us or their parents!
The good news is: Kids are not afraid of anything. The bad news is: Kids are not afraid of anything!
Do you know why? I believe because they rarely have had to deal with consequences from their actions because sending them to their room for punishment is a joke, teachers or coaches can’t reprimand them with any significance, a time-out is a good few minutes to be mindful and catch your breath after a full day of school, homework, play-dates, lessons, sports and religious school! Since bringing in a current event clipping from our daily newspaper is obsolete, how much of world news are they aware of and do they care because it’s all so far away? I understand the internet has changed everything but I don’t know many kids who are surfing the net for CNN!
I do believe, though, the only present day fear for kids is bullying, not being accepted by their peers and what others will think of them. And in reality, those fears are ones I remember having too!
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not kvetching that our kids and grandkids should know from hardship and sorrows or that we’ve been bad parents, we parented from our own life experiences and education. But they live a different life-style than we did, and to me, the result is that they are apathetic, feel less of the pain in the world, know little of empathy for others, don’t understand the concept of walking in other people’s shoes or accepting responsibility for their own actions while feeling the consequences. Ok, I’ve said a mouth-full and don’t want to generalize because there are wonderful kids whose parents have done a good job creating well-rounded people.
But, yes, there is a but as I have to ask these questions:
-Did September 11 affect our kids like President Kennedy’s assassination affected us or was it just something that happened?
-Does social media have more influence on kids than their parents and grandparents?
-Has technology influenced our kids and grandkids to a degree that they are disconnected as to what’s in front of them vs what’s on a screen? (They most likely will watch a YouTube video before seeing if it’s black or white smoke coming from the Vatican!)
-Because of technology are parents in less control of their kids because of the availability of exposure to anything and everything?
-How many kids take the time to call you on the phone or write a thank-you note for the birthday present you gave them rather than just sending you a text or email?
-MY FAVORITE!: Of course kids don’t take us, their parents, teachers, coaches etc, seriously because if they doubt what we say THEY CAN JUST GOOGLE IT and show us how wrong we are and feel much more power while knowing they’re right!
OMG! I’m exhausted with all these questions that can bring new potential information and answers that I just might not like!
But I worry about the future generations. I worry about how the world events and how their life experiences will affect their parenting-style and what it will bring to the future. Then I think, “Not my worry! I’ve done my part.”
But I have four grandkids and I so worry about their future.
Oy vey, what’s a Baby Boomer Bubbe to do?