Sunday, March 23, 2014

Delivery

I promised a post on my hope for the future generations, and now I must deliver. One thing I can honestly say, among even the very most compromised parents, I have never met a mother or father who I didn't truly believe loved their child. So, I do have faith that people I don't personally think should have children, will have children, and they will love their children, in whatever way they do.

On the bright side, I see young parents like my sister in law, Jennifer and my niece Dawn, whose children have every benefit emotionally, experientially (apparently I just made up that word), educationally, and materially. As I sat through a workshop on helping self-destructive adolescents Friday, I could not help but think of the relatively few problems my own children and I encountered as they graced through the teen years.

Here are some ways I think this generation (I think they are called the Millenials) are really smart, and hip, and cool.  They take much harder classes in high school; in my day there was no AP, Honors or Dual Credit classes. Many high school students now graduate with a semester or more of college credit and way higher level course work under their belt, thus preparing them to presumably advance further in their college years.

Let's talk about risks. Today's youth have much more education, awareness and common sense about the risks of drinking and driving, smoking and drugs. Many kids now have parent supervised parties, or at least "parent at home" parties, whereas, my generation was always looking for the empty house to have a party, if you know what I mean. I honestly believe kids today are much more likely to wear seat belts, designate a driver if there is going to be drinking, and keep in touch with their parents by text as to their plans and whereabouts.  This seems really smart to me.

Diversity is much more taken in stride today than 20 or 30 years ago.  Kids don't balk, act surprised or flinch when they are in the company of others who have disabilities, differences in sexual orientation, and certainly not racial and ethnic differences.  They have grown up not only tolerating diversity, but embracing it.  In my school, there were posters put up by the Gay Straight Alliance about marriage equality and bullying, and none of them were defaced or taken down. There are kids in wheelchairs, kids having behavioral meltdowns in the hallways, two girls or boys holding hands, and no one gives it a second look.  That's just cool if you ask me.

It goes without saying that kids today are way ahead of us in the technological and digital world.  They can figure out problems with electronics without ever thinking of looking for instructions or as we used to say, "reading the directions."  They can make movies and edit sound and play music and create art in ways that blow my generation out of the water. They are funny, too.  They make old words new again; they're constantly inventing new vocabulary. Scrape, swag, bromance and they be like you just got treated. 
They're so hip.

So, if anyone starts complaining about the next generation, you will now have some ammunition. They are just as smart, hip and cool as your generation and maybe more so. Until next time, YOLO!!!!!!!!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Generational Angst

Is it every generation's job/fate to worry about the next generation’s ability to successfully carry on the world's business?  Or is it that I work with the most dis-ordered children and families day after day? Or perhaps, am I just getting old and cranky?

Because I am seriously worried.

Parents in the 1940's worried that radio and television would be the downfall of society. Parents in the 50's worried about Rock and Roll.  Parents in the 60's worried about long hair, drugs and bra burning feminists.  My parent's generation worried about the Animal House parties and drug overdoses.  Parents in the 80’s worried about anorexia and HIV. 

I worry that today’s kids can’t two shoot baskets at the Y without looking at their phone. The young ones lie on the floor playing games on their devices for more time than they play actively. For Cripe’s Sake, they have to have radio commercials telling them to “Go Outside and Play” an hour a day.  The overweight are now the majority in the elementary schools.

Most interaction now occurs through texting and social media. Does this generation even know how to communicate face to face? And don’t get me started on their writing or ability to speak without saying “like” every other word. 

Conflict resolution?  Huh, what’s that?  They say unthinkable things on Facebook and resort to profane rants, fists and violence when confrontation does occur.  I’ve noticed an increase in sports related fights and a decrease in true sportsmanship being displayed at the high school up to the professional level.  Self abuse (cutting and suicide attempts) is the go-to way to lessen one’s personal pain. How does that make any sense?

What is going to happen to this generation of Baby Mama, Baby Daddy, good-bye nuclear family?  Even the middle class is moving away from marriage all together and those who do are divorcing at an extraordinary rate. 

Granted, my exposure to youth is heavily weighted to the most troubled and emotionally disturbed young people, who have been exposed to unbelievable trauma and dysfunctional environments.  Their lives revolve around DCFS, foster care, jail, prison, court, probation. Their coping skills are nil and their role models weak or non-existent. Many kids today don’t know who or where their biological parents are.  

And yes, I am getting old. Each day I am greeted with new gray hairs, puffier eyes than the day before, hands that could pass for a great grandmother, and a cranky attitude to match.  I hang up my clothes after wearing them for a day. I have put Kleenex up my sleeve when I’ve been too lazy to go to the trash basket. The age spots and cellulite do not go away no matter how much I pay for skin products or how much I work out.  I have gone 2-3 days (4 once even !) without washing my hair, because it “feels like it’s drying out.”  That’s when I catch that old people smell on myself.  So yes, I have definitely crossed over into the physical and mental make-up of an old person.

Whether I am in the wrong profession, moving into the wrong mindset with age, or simply carrying out my fate, I definitely have concerns.  I struggle with these issues on a daily basis.  Still, there are days when my faith is restored, and you can look forward to that in my next blog. I have not gone completely to the dark side. Maybe I just need a vacation.