I think I see…
I was born firmly in Gen X. My folks are Boomers.
My generation is largely responsible for Millenials and some of Gen Z,
I’m not entirely sure why, but I was thinking about all the hate Millenials get from Gen X and from the Boomers, especially the Boomers. And I think I see what the deal is.
Boomers, like my folks, wanted a cookie for not beating us like their parents had whaled on them as children. They still spanked us, but nothing like the beatings they had received, I was assured time and again. We had it so easy because they didn’t hit us all the time as their default.
What they did do was emotionally abuse us, because what were we so upset about when they derided any interest that wasn’t immediately apparent as money-making, it’s not like they whipped us with switches.
Being less terrible than completely terrible is better than being completely terrible. But less terrible is still terrible.
So then you get my generation being parents, and I know from a lot of my friends their go-to for parenting was to ask themselves, “What would my parents have done?” and then do the opposite.
Honestly, given some, a lot of, Boomer parents, not such a bad plan.
Yes, it was less terrible than our parents had been, but an awful lot of how my generation raised kids (helicopter parenting, planning out their whole lives, stressing about if their pre-school would hurt their chances at an Ivy League all in the name of being supportive) were just as damaging in different ways.
Boomers, however, lived longer than ever due to advances in health, and now they get to deride the softness of not just one or two younger generations, but THREE.
At the same time, Boomers are living longer and working longer. In areas like Academia, this limits the amount of opportunity for advancement for their children’s, and subsequent, generations. Many of them still seem to think that you can have a big house on a lawn in a big city on a single salary, and that you can pay completely for school by working summer jobs.
So there are a couple of things at work here.
1. Millenials and Gen Z are two removes from it being common practice to hit your kids with switches and razor strops.
2. Instead of constantly berating their children, denigrating any interest that isn’t “practical,” subsequent generations (X and Millenials) have taken a more “supportive” view of parenting, right or wrong. Honestly, from what I’ve seen of Millenial parenting I think they have a better grasp on it than my generation did.
My kid sister, also Gen X, is raising a member of Gen Z, I think. Generation lines are always a little nebulous. He’s 6. And his world is very different than mine was.
And I see my sister trying to avoid doing a lot of the shit our parents, and a lot of our friends, did. But she and the Spud also live with my folks, and it’s an uphill battle. She is firmly on board with letting the Spud make age appropriate choices like what he wears and what he eats, as long as he’s getting a relatively balanced diet.
Spud spontaneously decided he didn’t want to eat meat when he was 5 and learned that it comes from animals. She researched a healthy meat-free diet for him and ran it by his pediatrician. He does drink milk and eat more yogurt than I have ever seen anyone eat ever, so she isn’t raising him vegan. But she decided that she wasn’t going to turn food into a battleground, like our parents had. Which is likely why she cut all red meat out of her diet, and doesn’t even eat all that much poultry.
I try to enforce that he can hug people or not. I’m also trying to model some other basic ideas of consent. When he says no to something, I stop doing it. I also try to enforce that if he decides he likes boys more than girls, or equally, or no one at all, that it’s all ok, and we will love him regardless.
My parents, of course, think my sister is spoiling him because she lets him be interested in what he’s interested in, and doesn’t try to force him to take an interest in things they think are more appropriate, and because she doesn’t force him to eat meat after he said he didn’t want to.
My sister tried to minimize gender roles and keep name-calling from being a thing.
That didn’t too work out so well on two fronts: my folks, and kids at school.
But the thing that kind of brought this up for me, is the fact that my Dad is getting really mean to my nephew, and my sister and I are both bothered a lot by this.
Before the pandemic, she brought him over here a lot, and my husband and I try to model a healthy relationship for him. But because we can’t have nice things, and the Trump administration dropped the fucking ball spectacularly, she is stuck at home with a chronologic six year old, an emotional six year old, and my mother.
So, yeah, the difference in parenting styles between my folks and my sister, and Millenial parents I’ve seen is kind of what spurred this. Because I hear my Dad saying to my nephew a lot of the same shit his generation throws at Millenials and Gen Z.
I don’t know if this makes sense, but yeah…
We have, as a society, made progress from where we were. It’s a baby step ever generation, but slow forward movement is better than no forward movement? I just wish the Boomers weren’t so determined to tear everything back to the Stone Age on their way out so we all have to join them in the Tar Pits. But whatever…
(YMMV: Again, for those in the cheap seats, no population is a monolith. You may have had the awesome-set Boomer parents ever. A lot of us didn’t. If you’re an outlier, just stop.)