Friday, January 23, 2009

Parents and Children

We (Gen X) were the last generation to separate from our parents. In some ways, the Baby Boom's trajectory was all about separation: separating from their own parents, of course, but also separating from the generations before them, from the established institutions of the time, and from the entire culture. The point of separation is to make room for one's own adulthood, but once they made the room and walked into it, they did not bring adulthood with them, or even the seeds thereof. They brought instead the leftovers of adolescence: the narcissism, the self-indulgence, the naive idealism, and most of all, the overweening sense of entitlement.

And we (Gen X) followed eagerly in their footsteps, never considering that to destroy a culture without presenting a viable alternative meant destroying the collective identity and a major component of each person's sense of self. Listen to the music of those in their twenties. You get one of two things, You get either self-absorbed whining or you get militantly antisocial posturing; one or the other; nothing whatsoever to promote a positive vision of the place of the individual in society.

So I ask: What have we wrought?

Now the children of the baby boomers are parents and the children of Gen X are also reproducing merrily. It's difficult to imagine more laissez faire parenting. Watch the children running around shrieking. Any expectation of control has vanished. Even TV commercials are full of parents of toddlers who have given up. They just shrug as if this is the way it's supposed to be.

You can't blame the parents, though. Look in their eyes; you can see they are clueless. The baby boomers are only now (as they join AARP) overcoming their distrust of adulthood; they never let their children grow up. Is it any wonder we now see such miserable parenting? What's to become of this country?

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