Raising the ‘I’ Generation … Why We Are Failing As Parents

Ask practically anyone and they will tell you that coming of age in the 70’s and 80’s was incomparable and possibly the best time of their lives; well once you overlook the flared pants and flammable hair…

Being that most of our parents were Post War Babies and the first to experience Television, Rock ‘n Roll, Cars and Playboy Magazine; added to the combination of the psychedelic music along with the cultural and political trends of our predecessors, the Sixties; no stronger foundation would be paved for a generation to build upon..

And together, part Baby Boomer part Generation X, we became independent, street smart ‘latch key kids’, raised during the transition period of written and digital knowledge…

We had it all, while at the same time we had absolutely nothing and we didn’t even notice…

We left our house when the sun came up and returned before it went down; usually with only a dime in our pocket for the payphone in case of an emergency. Our parents had no idea where we were or who we were with but bet your ass if we were up to no good they found out, usually from the neighborhood adult that caught and then disciplined us without hesitation. And if you came home injured in any way from your day’s activities, you were told to know better next time and then ended up usually smacked for being so stupid for getting hurt in the first place…

Our parents were gone before we left for school, and even if they weren’t we walked there or got ourselves to the bus stop; and if we missed the bus, we walked then too no matter how old we were or how far it was. If they ever showed up at school: you were in trouble, sick or there was a family emergency; no matter why they were there, parents on school grounds was never a good sign…

Therefore, we all got good grades; well unless we failed and then it was our fault, not the teachers, and we went to summer school or got left back, period! We all tried out and made the team; well unless we sucked and then we waited until next season to hope we were better enough to try out again. We all got ribbons and trophies; well only the actual winners did while the rest of us cheered them on and got ice pops if we were lucky. But we all eventually got a taste of failure; well yes all of us…

Then in the afternoon we came home to an empty house. Got the key from the mailbox or around our necks and let ourselves in, if the front door was even locked at all; then fed ourselves, changed out of our school clothes, and had our homework and chores done before venturing over to a friend’s doorstep unannounced but always welcomed…

Once there, we entertained ourselves with sticks, rocks, balls, insects and frogs; played Red Rover, Freeze Tag, Red Light/Green Light, Mother, May I? and Spin the Bottle; and rode bikes, climbed trees, played in the woods, sewers and creeks … all unsupervised and always outside…

Street lights meant it was dinner time and we ate whatever food was put on our plate after we washed up; and if we didn’t like it, we didn’t eat, it was that simple. Our meat and dairy was fresh and our fruits and vegetables had stems and seeds; and so did our marijuana…

We had to be excused from the table before we either spent the rest of the night sitting in one spot talking on the phone with our friends because it was attached to the wall; or watching one of three network channels on TV with our family, also in one spot because the TVs were so small that if you moved, you’d block the screen….

We had it simple and we had the times of our lives … we had freedom and we had respect!

Our parents cleverly led us to believe that everything was about us, when in fact it was all about them and their lives; they didn’t adapt to us, we conformed to them … and collectively they successfully raised a generation of self-sufficient adults …

But that wasn’t good enough for our kids …

 

‘We were young and wild and free’ and all we wanted was our MTV  … though we eventually managed to screw that up too but I’m jumping ahead…

Because we were handed nothing, we learned very early on to fend for ourselves which made us resilient when it was time to finally move out of our parents’ house and move out we did. ‘Their house, their rules’ was the accelerant that kept us motivated until we turned 18, at which time most of us left the nest for the real world; some for college others for life, but on our own we went…

Already used to hand me downs, we lived modestly at first with whatever household ‘extras’ we were allowed to take from their home and worked hard to buy the rest; but again we were already used to being employed because most of us had jobs from the age of 16 to pay for the things we wanted, those were never handed to us, and living on our own is what we all wanted; well mostly what our parents wanted but once more, they made us believe it’s what we wanted too…

We were educated to be industrious and goal oriented; and through a vast variety of vocational courses included in our curriculum, by High School graduation most of us already knew what career path we wanted to follow, with some already meeting their full certification requirements by then.  The rest of us went on to various other forms of further education, but in the end we all shared the same objective, the American Dream; and we worked very hard to not only achieve it, but then maintain it…

With the exception of a few less than stellar years, the economy was not only booming but that vision was much easier to obtain when the combined cost of the white picket fence with a brand new car in the driveway was a mere $98,330.   After we acquired our own ideal of freedom, most attached to the stronghold of a mortgage of course, we put down our Rubik’s Cubes and unknowingly started playing ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’; which turned out to be a much easier game than when our parents partook because unlike most of them, we had the unfair advantage of the ‘two family income’…

Or was that the benefit that began our future failings?

Because just like that, the ‘Free to Be… You and Me’ generation raised to believe we could attain anything we wanted, did just that … we all got on trapped on the same merry-go-round striving for  a chance to ‘grab the Brass Ring’ not ever realizing that once we actually got it, it could be blinding…

 

Gradually our hair started coming down as our incomes started going up…

We were making twice as much money as all the generations that came before us and we were making our mark on the world; but it just wasn’t enough. The harder we worked the more we spent and the more we spent, the more we wanted; including time…

We found our new definition of Peace, Love and Happiness in well-manicured Suburbs, Palm Pilots and Car Pool Lanes; so much for the historic revolution of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll, we didn’t even protest when guitar riffs came to a screeching halt around the same year tattoos went mainstream and Kurt Cobain died…

And by the time we were prepared to procreate, we had already inadvertently morphed into such micromanaging messes that we could no longer recognize the nonconformists we once were from the rear-view mirrors of our overpriced European cars.  And in what began in a smoked filled room, after the ashtrays were permanently emptied and the Purple Haze cleared, all we were left with was the overwhelming craving to control everything in sight, beginning with our kids…

Although we were over worked and over scheduled, we felt accomplished and wanted to share our success with little people that would carry on our last name and legacy.  We threw out our condoms believing these future fetuses would never have to struggle like we did, while falsely thinking that they would inherently emulate our success; but more importantly that they would like us, really really like us, and be our best friends because of it…

That imagery was all very modern day Rockwell’ish; well, actually only if we were living inside the world of the Disney Channel. However in reality, the unscripted version, the theory never took into consideration the only important fact: they were our children that needed our parenting, not our wardrobe and matching outfits…

But like every other facet of our adult lives, we knew how to do things bigger and better than our predecessors; exhibit A: Shoulder Pads. And seamlessly we replaced Dr. Spock’s effective practice of ‘You know more than you think you do’ with Mr. Spock’s more time appropriate ‘Change is the essential process of all existence’ and faster than you could say ‘Beam me up, Scotty’, we modified childhood as we knew it; ironically all the while telling them story after story of our incredible upbringings and wishing it could be the same for them…

Well if only we didn’t restraining them, not only physically, but both mentally and emotionally, it could have been…

Because while all they required was unconditional love, support and the ability to experience enough disappointment and negative repercussions to form a basis for successful adult behavior like we did; as with everything else, we felt the need to improve upon that centuries old proven formula too…

We began by taking the obligation to protect and keep them safe from all the evils the world had to offer just a tad too far; and by too far I mean so much so that we slowly suffocated them with the stronghold of coddling from before the cord was cut. On the bright side SIDS deaths declined 50% because let’s be honest, they didn’t have a fighting chance against our smothering, however the trees we once hugged as tightly were jealous; well the ones that were still standing anyway…

By this time our ever advancing developments in technology and the internet made the world appear so much smaller but with it came a larger amount of fear.  The most frightening of all being that we would fail the parental litmus test, after all what did we really know about child-rearing; hell, our role models never chauffeured us through puberty, we had to figure life out on our own and look how that turned out … wait, we turned out pretty fucking fabulous ….

Hmmm, well … so OK maybe not the best example but that’s not the point, or is it?

Nevertheless we were determined, for whatever reason, to over plan, over achieve and overbear their entire youth; perhaps it was as simple as feeling let down by the Jetsons flying car promise or maybe just a bad trip at a Dead concert, but we collectively vowed they would never experience that or any other type of disappointment on our watch, EVER…

So ironically the same generation that thrived knowing nothing but limitless boundaries, methodically changed all the rules; and when we were done, we put more in place where there never were a need for any, starting at the womb and working our way out…

Not only did we shape the future with our inventions of laser eye surgery, IBM and the iPhone, we also turned delivery rooms into baby boutiques.  We discovered the gift to change how we were conceiving as well as the ability to determine the length of gestation by scheduling due dates to conform to our overbooked day planners and personal discomfort; and right then and there, while still numb from the epidural, we unintentionally gave birth to the ‘I’ Generation…

“And in the streets no children screamed
no lovers cried, and no poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken

Mother Nature’s heart was broken”

 

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