Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for May 3rd, 2009

Understanding generations 4

Posted on May 03, 2009 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated May 03, 2009 12:00 AM

Things follow one after another in a logical sequence. I remember telling this to my kids in our talks about the different stages of relationships that they would likely go through in life. In these discussions, I would point out that kids become adolescents, and grow up to be teenagers before they become adults. They fall in love with someone, have a thing going, get married and have kids, with all of these stages happening in that order. Except maybe falling in love, which can happen many times in one’s life, even way into late adulthood.

But that isn’t always how things turn out in life, especially these days. From the point of view of many older people, there seems to be a “disorder” in the way things are unfolding, in the way the young people today are living their lives. If this is the new order, it seems like chaos to us older folks. The stages I mentioned above still do happen but not in the sequence we are used to. In truth, it can get quite alarming.

Many will agree that sex is a bit too casual these days, that it happens too early and too often in courtship. If surveys and news reports are to be believed, it often occurs way before kids get to know each other really well and certainly before they are full adults. More and more, babies are conceived and families are made before marriage — that is, if the relationship even gets to marriage.

Ironically, while we of the Baby Boomer generation have sacrificed a lot to give our kids what they did not have, the world we have created has turned out to be so difficult for them to just enjoy being kids. Notice how many are in such a hurry to do so-called “adult” things and put on the superficial trappings of adult entitlement.

Have we Baby Boomer parents screwed up? If we have, it’s probably from trying too hard to make life easier for our kids. We worried about their not having the best chances in life, the best clothes and the best education. We worried that they would have a hard time at anything.

We worried about things our parents never worried about like lead poisoning, obesity, drug addiction, seat belts and AIDS. Most of all, we developed an overblown fear of the possibility that they may be suffering from low self-esteem and made sure they got a barrage of reassurances. And so we gave them expensive toys, enrolled them earlier in school and got them reading, writing and counting earlier. We enrolled them in after-school activities, and extras like summer camp and travel so they could feel more confident and “get ahead.”

We spared the rod. We were easy on them, making sure we continuously gave them “positive” reinforcement by complimenting and praising them much more than we ever got when we were growing up. We anticipated their needs, often acting before we should have.

While most of these things are actually good, they are not always so, especially when given in extra large doses, or without the kids having earned them, or even before they asked for them. In many ways, the largesse that today’s kids enjoy in the name of our love may have actually hurt them. I fear that all this pampering has made them soft, unfocused and too dependent on their parents.

I believe that the biggest temptation many of us parents fall into is trying to be our children’s “best friend.” This means establishing rapport so they feel free to tell us anything. We do this with the goal of establishing open communication with them which, in our view, can only be for the good.

But by being our kids’ best friend, we often end up surrendering the right to be the parent-disciplinarian that our kids need during their formative years. We give up our power to dispense “tough love” when the kids need some scolding and punishing for bad behavior.

On top of that, by being their closest confidante, we may undermine the necessary stage of rebellion and aloneness that children must go through if they are to become their own persons.

I had a lot of self-esteem issues when I was growing up and I know a lot of other people my age did. But we did not even know what to call it then, and neither did our parents. They thought we were just being overly shy, or we were going through the usual lack of confidence associated with youth. So our parents hardly intervened with the process, and we pretty much solved these issues ourselves.

I often swing from the stance of an old–fashioned “my-generation-was-tough” kind of parent to being an open-minded and perhaps too forgiving and accommodating one. This is one of the great contradictions my generation has to live with, since we were raised in a modern world by old-fashioned parents with old values but became parents ourselves in a postmodern one that demands new ways of coping.

Like my mother did, I often wonder how my kids will fare as parents. I would not be surprised if my mom’s parents also wondered about how their kids would do. Every generation worries about whether their progeny is made of stronger stuff than they are.

It is probably true that this generation is softer than mine but there are intrinsic weaknesses of youth, such as recklessness and impulsiveness that I believe will redeem them. The writer Pearl Buck observed, “The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible — and achieve it, generation after generation.”

Thank God for this, since it is probably what has saved every seemingly impossibly hopeless generation.

* * *

Definitely the last call!

The time to live is now. No more excuses why life is on hold. The best part of your life is waiting to happen.

The 45th run of the Tapping the Creative Universe Workshop (TCU) is set for May 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, from 7 to 9 p.m., at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Cost is P5,000. Please call +63916-855-4303 (Ollie) for questions or reservations, or write to emailjimp@gmail.com, or visit http://www.tappingthecreativeuniverse.com to see the syllabus, FAQ and other info.

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