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.
Frankly, I worry about the future. I worry about how and where my kids will find career fulfillment and happiness. I even worry about their quality of life, with such dramatic changes as what is being proposed for our healthcare system, what has already happened to our car industry, and what may continue to happen to our way-of-life due to terrorist activities. Let’s face it, air travel is no longer any fun. It sure was when I was younger.
The other phenomenon that is pervasive among my peers is the return of their adult children, after college. In most cases, they haven’t returned home to freeload, but because they’re just unable to afford to live on their own even if they’re fortunate enough even to find a job. My wife, as step-mom to my boys, is clearly worried about this, though she loves them dearly. She truly didn’t even consider the fact that the boys might still be in our home, in our daily lives, in their twenties. Neither did I, for that matter, yet I still hope to prepare them to succeed independently, but there’s so much contrary evidence that I can’t assume that will be the case.
My wife’s parents and the majority of her family live in Vancouver, B.C. and we’d assumed we’d move there once the boys had graduated from high school. As my parents have died in the past few years and I have little other immediate family in our area, it seemed only fair that we’d transition to the location of my wife’s family once the boys were grown. What is “grown” today? As our boys are just 13 and 16, we’re still a few years away from facing this issue, but we’re well aware of our friends, with older kids, who are facing this right now with their “adult” children.
But, let’s backtrack a little and look at some of the things that my friend and I reflected on as so much easier when we were younger. First, getting into college wasn’t that big a deal. Yes, Harvard and Stanford were still difficult standard bearers, but a strong “B” average and a decent SAT score secured each of us admission to good University of California schools. Later, we both got into UCLA graduate school with grades that wouldn’t get us even considered now!
Further, job opportunities were prevalent. We both were able to work summer jobs, every summer in high school and college, and we both got jobs immediately after college graduation and, in my case, through an internship while finishing up my M.B.A.
My 16-year-old is competing with grown men, these days, for minimum wage jobs. Plus, the workloads at middle and high schools have become absurdly excessive. It was not that hard when I went to high school. That is why so many kids can’t take jobs, even if they can find them.
I guess I feel as if our kids aren’t allowed to be kids as long as we were. The omnipresence of technology in their lives 24/7 contributes to a loss of innocence. The problems the world is currently experiencing with this recession and the emergence of terrorism worldwide just adds their challenges. At times, the news is just plain frightening. And, most outlets don’t even report “news” since news, as the mainstream media have mostly become opinionated vs. objective.
So, I fear and believe it is a harder world for our children. A scarier world. And, I regret and feel bad that they will be facing these higher hurdles and scarier times. I wish it were different. And, frankly, I feel sort of impotent in helping to change this situation. Other than getting involved in politics, which I loathe to do, I feel a little like Rick (Humphrey Bogart) in “Casablanca” saying to Ilsa at the end of the film, “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.” I guess time will tell.