I'm apparently in a newly defined older "Gen Y" subset called Millennials. I was born 2 years after MTV came on the air, my son was born when MTV went off the air and just became RTV (Reality Trash Viewing). I have often lamented my peers reactions to everything in life. I had a troubled childhood, but I almost wonder if that was for the best. My counterparts are - mostly - self righteous, entitled, spoiled brats. Products of homes where no one "lost" a game (not teaching children good sportmanship), where everyone got ribbons, even for 20th place (everyone deserves a prize), where some sports eliminated winning and losing altogether (self-esteem), all forms of punishment not written about in books by some "expert" without kids was outlawed and taboo (because all punishment hurts self-esteem and is embarrassing) and that every kid was taught they were the most special thing in the world and everyone else is beneath them. They are taught that bullying is a reason for suicide (yes, I said it - TAUGHT).
(More ramblings after jump)
I was never brought up that way. I was taught, even if heavy handed - to respect my elders. I still remember the day my hardworking great grandfather boxed my ears for being a brat. I never was bratty to him again after that. I respected my great grandmother up through the day she died because that's just what one does. I didn't need a why. She was 2.5 years old when the Titanic sank. She raised 6 kids on farmer's wages, through the stock market crash, Prohibition and Depression. She saw dozens of wars and a dozen Presidents. When she died at age 99, she saw 2 (and darn near 3) children die and her husband (20 years prior) before her. She had approximately 20 grandkids, 70 great-grandkids and 40 great-great grandkids. She knew us all by name and sight, and for a lot of us - by voice, just calling on the phone. She was a master cook without a single class (she made baked goods for the church, even on a fixed income), she was a master quilter without a single teacher (she worked tirelessly, ALL by hand - to donate the quilts to the church to sell, or to families who truly needed them) and I was lucky enough for my children to have a baby quilt made by her. She even lived alone up until she was 95, when the family became worried after a nasty fall and broken hip. She walked a mile a couple times a day and always started her morning with half a grapefruit. When she met my 2nd child, she was in a wheelchair and he was not crawling yet, she leaned over, from the seated position in a wheelchair, to the floor and started pushing his feet and legs weird and he took his first distance crawl... an experience I'll never forget because I saw the wisdom in a mother/grandmother raising so many kids. I respected her and her life, she may not have had formal schooling but she was quite possibly the smartest woman I knew. I didn't ask why.
I look at my peers and wonder where their parents were. I've seen so many, some from top education circles even, disgracefully challenge their elders, talk down to them, insult them... because that's how they were raised when the Gen X decided that their parents didn't know squat and that all those "experts" knew better. One of the fastest growing book sale genres in the late 80's and 90's was parenting help books. Where in the hell did these Gen Xer's get the idea that if they were so great, that their parents got it all wrong and needed a book to train them in parenting?
The idealistic bullshit spouted by many of that generation and age range about their kids just baffles me. A child needs to lose. They need their feelings hurt. They need to be passed over for starting spots in sports. They need to not get anything for supper if they don't eat what you made. They need to go to the mall for a few hours on their own. They need to get picked on. All these things will help a kid learn good sportsmanship, losing without shame, how to handle rejection, how to support and encourage their own peers, how they don't get everything in life when they are adults, independence and ways to handle confrontation. Too many kids "my age" are out in the world with all these illusions they are something super special, and everything is owed to them. When they left for college or to embark as an adult, they were so damn coddled that they never learned how to do anything for themselves in the REAL WORLD.
I guess I favor that as child abuse if a gentle hand in the right situations as a spanking is. When they got to the real world, they didn't get that job on the first try, didn't get into their first college choice, didn't get that promotion, or don't have the cash flow to have that dinner they wanted. They never learned how to deal with any of this and there is some anecdotal evidence showing that many in the Gen Y era are losing their jobs, not because of skill set, but because they have never handled anything remotely close to the real world of working. I'd even venture, at least ponder, that the adult world is much harsher than high school world. When you are a kid, you are entitled to education, meals at school, a safe home and so on. As an adult, you are not entitled to anything, barring pumping out a ton of kids and sucking the government dry. You won't get education guaranteed to you, a job to pay your bills and you still deal with the same bullshit cliques and hierarchy that high school provided. I was bullied relentlessly for my weight - something that I really couldn't seem to control. I ate well, played several sports, could leg press 200lbs and was very active. I just was never meant to be a size 2. I was told everything from "you need to quit dancing, your jelly rolls are going to hit someone" to being moo'ed at. I was beaten up early, until I learned how to fight back and had my desk tipped over while I was in it, breaking a finger, as a kid dared another to "tip the whale". I was amazingly enough only 145 at 5'4". Teachers were no help to me either. But instead of everyone telling me just how awful it was and that I was entitled to anything, I learned how to deal with it by having a good heart to those friends I did have, learning to persevere and get the best grades in school, took my anger out on poor softballs over the fences, and developed a sense of humor. By the time I was done with high school, I'd even developed empathy and pity for my tormentors.
Y'ers are failing at the very social graces they should have learned while X's protected them in their bubble wrapped, anti-bacterial wiped down world. Instead of admitting failure, inadequacy or even slight mistakes as parents, X-written articles are quick to blame technology. "Oh gee golly, these kids these days are always texting and emailing and..." blah blah blah. The fact is, not a single person can subside on technology alone and they still need to shop, they still need to work and they still need to have interaction for both. The problem was they were never taught how to handle the real side of interaction. Even if we floated that whole technology excuse, who let them live their life with no enjoyment, afraid to let them out of the house for fear of cold, danger, being bullied or anything else so their only entertainment was TV and computers, hmm?
The only way to get back on track is to recognize the reality that the vast majority of us aren't super special. Everyone has their own talents. I mean everyone. Very rarely is it, that someone comes up through the ranks and invents something truly meaningful or comes up with a cure for something. Even then, I'm sure there are areas of their life they suck at, that someone else excels. I can only hope to instill in my kids that no one is better than anyone, that sometimes, life does just suck and that everyone has a skill or ability in them and they need to recognize that so they can truly empathize with their peers.