Thank you Past Generations
My grandparents were from the “silent generation.” I can only assume they were called that because it was the era of ‘children are to be seen and not heard.’ I guess it’s good they weren’t talkers because they were doers. They seemed to be all about their business. I could never really get good stories out of my grandparents or older aunts and uncles until very recently. I think they’re tired of being silent. They took things very seriously and worked really hard. They were also called “The Greatest Generation.” Great Depression babies. If they were depressed, they took it like men. They didn’t wallow in their own self pity like subsequent generations. They believed in this country and its preservation. They also popped out babies like they were going out of style.
Baby Boomers. They grew up without much of anything, so they decided they wanted everything. All about revolution and change. Fighters. They knew what they wanted and deserved and they demanded it. Civil Rights. Free Love. To be young forever. They were so caught up in themselves and their movements, I think they were too busy to raise their kids. Or if they weren’t, they seemed to have the motto that they weren’t going to let kids get in their way. I mean, I can’t really blame them. They had a lot going on, putting people on the moon and what not. But the generation that followed-my generation, the generation of latch-key kids, got lost in the shuffle.
Generation X. X, as in Who are we? What do we stand for? X marks the spot where we got lost, I say. The 1960s was such a time of upheaval, that my generation were left to deal with the fallout. Perhaps we should’ve been called Generation “C” for consequences. The consequences of all that free love was AIDS. The consequence of the Vietnam war (among other things) was a disproportionate ratio of women to men, and who subsequently had to re-think the whole ‘finding a husband game.’ The consequence of all that liberation was we were free to do anything……or nothing. For years they called us the slacker generation. It felt like our parents changed the world, so there was nothing left for us to do. We learned about all of the people who died for our luxury of opportunities. Then we watched the Spaceshuttle Challenger explode in front of our eyes. To me, that almost represents what happened to us. We were primed and ready to blast off into the next stratosphere and then in an instant our dreams were dashed to pieces. It’s as if Generation X suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. Is it a coincidence that most of the people I know from this generation are either social workers or in therapy themselves (or both)? At least we can say we created reality TV (no doubt an off-shoot of all those social workers wanting to study ourselves!) And we create Hip Hop. I’m very proud of that.
Then here come the Millennials, who are all “selfies!” and social media mavens and “I can be/do anything I want to.” Almost as if they’re what Gen X was supposed to be. Which is so annoying! But it’s also what I admire about them: their fierce determination and feistiness. They declare themselves something and pretend like they are until it becomes true. That is a useful skill. They have so much self confidence. Self promotion is a way of life. They are always camera-ready. Does anything embarrass them? I don’t think so. I’m embarrassed to say I keep waiting for reality to smack them in the face. But they operate with an alternative reality. I think they’re more likely to smooze reality up and make it their bitch. They’ve got balls. Where did this come from?
Nevertheless, I appreciate them all, despite Generation X’s wayward journey. The Silent-ers taught my father to commit to a job for 40 years and provide a good, stable life for our family. (You don’t see that anymore!) And Boomers paved the way for me to have options, like a career and to grow up in a diverse neighborhood where I didn’t have to use separate water fountains or bathrooms from white people. Generation X gave the world Hip Hop and Reality TV (and some other things I can’t think of-I’m sure of it!) And the Millennials gave us facebook and twitter, and the audacity to have a second act in life. (I say, take a page from their book and become what you are!)
So here’s what I believe about Generation X. Our legacy will be our children. I think we are the best parents in the history of the world. Maybe because we had more time to decide what it means to be a parent, many of us having children later in life than any previous generation. Growing up amidst all that change gave us permission to defend traditional ideals, while being flexible to make our own rules. We chose to be involved in our kids’ lives, but have balance so that they don’t become our lives. We learned how to reward our kids without spoiling, teaching them that hard work pays off in the end, but it doesn’t hurt to have some fun along the way. We know how to discipline without beating the essence out of them. We strive to teach them respect by respecting them as individuals. We know when to speak up on their behalf and when to be silent, so they learn to fight their own battles. We have an abundance of resources at our disposal, (including therapy!) We have fathers more involved than ever before. I know so many wonderful Gen X parents! We apply Depression-era work ethics and Boomer-style revolution to our parenting. (We also learned from boomers how NOT to parent.) So, I think our kids will change the world the way our parents did, but waaay better. Gen X was the recovery period, a regrouping, if you will. But when our kids grow up, by then, the world will be ready.