Why our children are the way they are

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated March 21, 2010 12:00 AM

When I am with people my age and we talk about our children’s generation, we wonder why many of them, two of my children included, are still not married even if they are in their late 20s and early 30s.

Contrast this with our generation. Many of us got married just a few years out of college. When we were in our mid- or late-20s, we had at least one child, and we were not only dreaming of owning our own homes, but had actually done something solid in that direction, by committing to a mortgage to acquire it.

My wife whom I married when she was 20, observes that the new generation has a problem with commitment. Sometimes I tend to believe it, and I think it’s the fault of the generation that preceded them — ours.

I am not going to rant about how my generation is better than my children’s. Instead, I will try to explain what I think we did which may have caused some problems for our kids.

We who are now in our late 50s certainly feel that our generation had it easier than our parents did. For one, we did not have to go through the trauma of World War II. But even if we grew up in a world that was, in many ways, less challenging than theirs, there was still much of their world that lingered in ours, and this helped shape us.

Even if we lived through many changes, it took quite a while for these changes to affect us. Our formative years saw us growing up in a world that was still pretty clear-cut about many things. School and church rules, duties, obligations and the like were taken seriously. Sin and grace, right and wrong, punishment and reward, were understood in the same way by most everyone. Family was important, and the word of our elders was something we did not take lightly.

In school, there were the good students and the bad students. You either passed or failed depending on how well you did your work. In the world we grew up in, no one had heard of Attention Deficit Disorder, dyslexia, or other mental or psychological impediments that now explain why certain students perform less well than others. There were also no schools that offered individualized instructions, and our parents did not feel the need to be informed in great detail about how we interrelated with classmates, or how we behaved, unless we did something really bad.

Most of us “earned” the perks we enjoyed like the privilege of driving the family car with “good behavior.” We were given reasonable amounts for baon and we lived within our means. Most of us first experienced travel only after we got out of college.

When it was our turn to become parents, however, our generation must have collectively decided to give our children something “better” by giving them what we did not have. In wanting to help them be all they can be, or to give them more confidence and an edge over others their age, we not only sent them to the best schools, we also enrolled them in extracurricular activities like ballet, gymnastics, karate, etc. We brought them along on our trips to broaden their perspectives. We over-praised them even when they underperformed. We withheld the stick when they did wrong because we could not stand seeing them suffer, even if it was for their own good. Besides, we were afraid it might affect their “self-esteem.” We also gave them gifts at the slightest excuse — something we did not enjoy when we were growing up, unless it was Christmas or our birthday.

In effect, we wanted to make our kids feel “special.” I am sure our own parents also thought we were special, but the difference was, our parents did not indulge us in the way we have indulged our own children. They lived by stricter rules which were not as ambiguous as ours today. Whereas their rules were mostly spelled out in black and white, we gave our children greater “understanding” and bent the rules accordingly.

Throw in the new ideas that were practically unheard of in our parents’ time — concepts like “self-esteem enhancement,” “individualized learning” and other modern notions that we embraced and applied. These not only opened us up to “shades of gray” when dealing with our kids, but in many ways, they trapped us there.

While our parents may have seen us as special, we were still treated like the other kids. To us, today’s parents, the “specialness” (in our eyes) of our kids may literally mean to us that they are “exceptional,” and thus deserve to be exempted from the rules that apply to everyone else.

Our kids are brighter, taller, more intelligent, better looking than us, thanks to all the nutritious food we did not get when we were growing up. To be sure, it’s a different world they are growing up in. The choices open to them are much more varied than those we ever dreamed of. And their choices extend not just to lifestyle and career options, but to moral ones as well. I believe that our children navigate a more ambiguous world of morality in this fast-changing world than we had to when we were young. One reason is because, for better or worse, we introduced them to a more understanding, forgiving personal God than the one our parents introduced to us when we were growing up.

While I tell my kids that I wish to see them grow up independent and living their own lives, I am often greatly tempted to intervene and sort things out for them. But I hold back because I feel that they are old enough to “save” themselves and they should assume full responsibility for the choices they make.

Evolution tells us that every generation is an improvement over the previous one. I sometimes wonder if this is true though, since I see the young today as less tough than we were, with less patience and a greater feeling of entitlement.

The late Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop chain, expressly told her kids that they would not get any inheritance from her when she died. She had decided to donate everything to charity. She impressed upon them that they had to work for their own piece of the pie, so to speak.

I’ve told my kids the same thing, but I am not really sure that I can follow this through with when the time comes.

I hear from many parents that they try to be their kids’ “best friend” to make sure that communication lines are always open. That sounds fine, but in truth, many times we could probably have served them better by being more like their parents than their barkada.

But however we raise our kids, it is important to know where they are at, at any given time in their lives. The writer-humorist Josh Billings said, “To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.” And that means not just remembering how we were at their age but never forgetting that our parents probably fretted too about how we would turn out as adults.

* * *

Have you been shooting pictures without really understanding how your camera works? Has it been mostly hit or miss?

I will be giving a workshop on Basic Photography on April 3, 2010. This will be a hands-on experiential approach which will cover basic knowledge of the SLR camera and its functions, techniques on lighting for outdoors, indoors and including studio lighting, composition, the use of different lenses, portraiture and landscape techniques, motion or action photography, and a whole lot more.

This is a one-day workshop only. We will proceed immediately to shooting pictures as we discuss the theories. I will work with a limited number of students only.

Participants must have a DSLR digital camera capable of manual settings.

Workshop date: April 3, 2010, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Place: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC

Cost: P3,500

Please call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 (ask for Ollie) or e-mail me at emailjimp@gmail.com for questions and reservations.