The parents of every generation expect and hope that their children can and will do better than they did. Ours may be the first generation, in a very long while, where it is both unlikely and unrealistic to have this expectation. This scarier world has just gotten much more complicated, much harder, and more competitive. I reflected on this in a conversation with a friend, about how much easier we believed it was for us, as we were starting out in life.
It is inescapable that America’s pre-eminence in the world is changing. Whether it’s the devaluation of our dollar as the standard currency or other factors, it is clear that we are weakening as the world’s super-power. The fall-out from this translates to our industries, our economy, and the opportunities our children will have.
I love technology. I hate technology. I get so frustrated with technology. All of the above. That’s my generation and definitely me. My friend Marty is a tech world wizard, while my wife is still using computers primarily for e-mail. I’m somewhat in the middle with my knowledge and depth of tech use and dependence, though my boys laugh at my attempts to learn anything new. But, it’s hard to resist all we hear about what every new tech gadget has to offer, especially for us men (a.k.a. boys and their toys).
When I get a new tech device, like a digital camera for instance, I am very excited by the purchase and I take it home with pride and eagerness. I carefully place it on my desk where it usually sits for a week or so until I muster the courage to open the box. Then, I take out the various parts of the device, and ask for some help to lift out the user manual. On viewing this lengthy document, in 42 different languages, I sit down discouraged, and place all the pieces and the manual on top of the just opened box, where it will sit for another week or two. A strong drink will finally give me the courage to start the learning process.
Remembering Chevy Chase in those summer vacations movies reminds me of the fact that most so-called “family vacations” are, at best, vacations for the kids and torture for the parents. I’m generalizing, of course, but most generalizations as well as clichés, have a strong basis in truth. I stand by the proposition that we parents usually need a vacation after our family one, if only to recover and rest.
This summer my younger son, David, got to spend several weeks at the sleep- away camp he loves, while my older son, Will, is indulging his passion for rock ‘n’ roll at a Rock School where he’s taking drum lessons, and participating in numerous bands and concerts through the school. He’ll also be living, figuratively, in our garage with his own band, driving the nearby horses crazy, or am I mistaking their thrashing about as dancing?
What an interesting contemporary question: will the kids ever leave? I left home at sixteen to go away to college and never returned, except for visits. I stayed close to my parents, and they did help me financially through college, though I worked every summer to supplement my education expenses and pay for my own spending. ShortRib (my wife) and I wonder when will our kids be independent enough to afford to leave?
The other day I talked with a mother who has two teenage daughters. One is graduating from high school this year while the other has two more years to go. I asked what were their plans, and had she discussed it with her husband, and I was surprised to hear she had no clue. Neither she, her husband, or the kids really knew where the girls were heading, especially when it came to the idea of supporting themselves with a real job, after college.