“Kids these days…” has been said by likely every older generation in reference to every younger generation since humans began communicating. I can only imagine our hunter gatherer ancestor grandparents- Grandma filling her basket with fruits and nuts while Grandpa comes lunging out of the woods with an atlatl in one hand and some form of meat in the other. “See what those grandkids of ours are doing?”, Grandma calls to Grandpa as she makes her way towards the firepit. “I do, I do. Shaking grain into the dirt…. kids these days.”
Skipping forward some 6,000 years +/- an epoch or so, the time machine takes us to the 1960’s! The generation named the Greatest Generation looks upon their Baby Boomer teens, “Kids these days.” This Greatest Generation lived by the words of Emily Post. This is the generation that survived the Great Depression (and never forgot it) and almost entirely funded the advent of the subdivision. Their children’s lifestyles sent them shaking their heads in utter confusion. The music, the clothes, the conversations they didn’t know what to do with, the breaking of oh so many of Miss Post’s rules.
And yet, those Baby Boomers weren’t sent beneath their desks for tornado drills. This is the Cold War generation. The generation that went to school each day to see a plaque firmly placed at the entrance doors showing it was a safe place to be in the event of a nuclear attack. They knew better than to think they would be safe, what they didn’t know was when and if it would happen. Suddenly those unwanted conversations became important to have. Where the war of their parents essentially reinvented patriotism, their war wasn’t as cut and dry leaving many to respond in a way the Greatest Generation had never seen.
Eventually this generation too found its way into the American suburbs. The Baby Boomers sped right on through love beads, disco Spandex and straight into white pants – no socks and shoulder pads. Where their parents gave life to the cul-de-sac, the Boomers gave life to the shopping mall, latch key kids and cable television. They sought out jobs with pensions, PPO’s and 401k’s. They had viable plans to retire debt free and live out those dreams of doing whatever they had dreamed of back in those early teenage years, when the if we don’t get nuked thought ran through their minds the way we spend our lotto winnings on the way home from the gas station before the numbers are called.
Speaking of shopping malls, welcome Generation X! Personally belonging to this generation I’ll make my best effort to present an objective representation despite never quite making mainstream myself. Our generation sped down the sidewalks on skateboards with Walkman’s. We learned to type…on a computer. Our parents and grandparent’s generation saw us as slackers without a plan. We saw ourselves as having something better than plans, we had what we believed to be attainable dreams.
We were raised to believe we could have more, do more, and accomplish more than any generation that ever existed. We grew up to cover ourselves in brand name clothes, buy big box toys and large impressive vehicles. To fulfill our prophecy further, we went beyond the suburbs and gave rise to weird McMansions, put our kids in everything from Taekwondo to dance by the age of three and recorded every second of it while living off fast food all the above financed by the credit gods. We were addicted to success at any cost and somehow accepted the insane idea that the addiction was what life was all about.
We killed the radio, and our kids killed MTV with YouTube
We’re almost done.
The Millennials. The generation blamed for killing everything but baseball and apple pie. They have been blamed for killing those previously mentioned shopping malls plus mayonnaise, processed cheese, home ownership, divorce and beer (not craft beer to be specific).
Oddly enough, the Millennial’s have more in common with their largest haters- the Baby Boomers. No, you’re right, the cold war is over for now. There’s a new threat in town, well actually everywhere on the planet. Lest we forget however that the reality check began when Mom and Dad got a foreclosure letter on their new California Split in 2008. College plans went from done deal to how? Ideals of bigger and better changed to less is more. The tan and brown boxes that span the country offering the same menus, same stocked isles and same recognizable logos changed to a desire for anything that represented culture and experience. This is the generation that revisited those unwanted conversations of their grandparent’s generation, giving them the lesser known nickname-the Boomerang Generation. Yeah, they have smart phones and lap tops- so do we. Yeah, they use them frequently- let’s be honest- so do we.
“To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn.” ~The Byrds
Every generation has seen its own version of pain, fear for the future, and pleasure in its moments.
I have no idea if my parent’s social security will keep coming in, I always felt mine would never come. I have no clue at this point as to whether or not California will start to become a desert or if Florida will begin to join the ocean in my lifetime. My children, my future grandchildren will inherit the next phase of concern. They know this. For all the reasons we can create to say, “Kids these days,” I know this much- compassion can put everything in perspective. I have been spared the need to reinvent a hundred wheels because of the lessons and wisdom passed down to me from generations before. Those lessons came in a form of compassion and respect to my own place in time. How much angst and frustration can be avoided if we all take a step back and recognize that we’re a culturally constantly evolving species? In the end we’re all in this together and we ALL have something to offer to the conversation so long as its civil.
As for Generation Z, first of all on behalf of whoever named you that, I apologize. If it makes you feel any better the generation right behind you is named Alpha. You were both born with a pretty heavy load on your shoulders.
If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of these people. ~ Nhat Hanh
To everyone from the Greatest Generation all the way down to the Alpha’s, start talking, keep talking, and take notes. We all have something to learn from each other.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. ~Dalai Lama
Audrey L Elder