As I pass my mid-50’s the words “What is happening to the youth of today?” echos in my mind as words so many “older” people said way back when I was young. I thought the words were meant to be demeaning to the youth of then but now I am not so sure. I hear myself saying those words today, but I say those words out of concern and fear of what is happening to the youth of today and what will be happening to our youth in the future.
As I look back upon my youth, I remember it being pretty simple. I wasn’t concerned with designer clothes, purses or shoes. I lived simply and so did the majority of children with which I went to school. There weren’t an abundant amount of local malls to hang out in with my friends and I didn’t have “older” friends who could drive me around town. We didn’t have beepers, smart phones or computers. The World Wide Web hadn’t infiltrated my daily activities and I got dirty playing tag football with the neighbors. Life was good. I was fortunate.
Years later, when I became a mother, things were a little different. Most mothers worked outside of the home as did I. Things changed from working for “need” to working for “want” but we deceived ourselves in thinking that those “wants” were needs” and I include myself in that category. After awhile, all those “wants” did become “needs” in the eyes of our children and we became helpless to turn back the hands of time. For many parents, perhaps we did this out of a sense of guilt that both parents worked outside of the home and the “traditional” home of our youth was altered. Lovingly, we gave our children our money because our time was too scarce. In confusing wants and needs, could we, as parents, have raised a nation of children who lived in an time of instant gratification which was and will be unable to be fulfilled in their future?
Parents my age, for the first time in history, will probably have a greater income than their children will obtain. Many children have moved into the same house they grew up in with their parents, bringing with them their children as well. The grandparents, who are making more money than their children, are oftentimes supporting not only their children and spouse, but their children’s children as well. Five year old grandchildren, living with grandma and grandpa, have televisions and X-boxes in their room, bought by the grandparents. In many elementary schools, it would not be uncommon to see a 7 year old girl dressed in the most fashionable shoes with lights that flash or carrying a book bag with the Vera Bradley brand. If the income of the our 25-30 year old parents are less than their parents how can this be? Could it be that Grandma is buying the clothes? Could it be that Grandpa is supporting the extended family?
So, where is all of this mumble jumble going? It brings me back to my fear and concern for the youth of today. What happens when our generation becomes too old to support our children and our grandchildren? What happens when the expectations of our children will be unable to be met? By giving our children their wants instantly, how much did we help them? By giving our grandchildren the best of things, how will that color their future? When a generation has lived in abundance not created by their own hands that abundance is oftentimes not appreciated but it becomes an expectation – something deserved.
I believe that each of us, as parents, did the best we could with what we knew. Each of us did what we thought was the best for our children and we did it with love. I have two daughters. As with all things hindsight is 20/20 and I know I have made mistakes in raising my daughters. I have done some good things as well. I do not have grandchildren but I don’t have to have them to see that so many grandparents are doing to their grandchildren what they did to their children – giving them all they can whether they need it or not.
I was fortunate. My children didn’t ask for much growing up. They were not tempted by everything new and glitzy. Since my children did not ask for much, when they did they generally got it. Perhaps they didn’t get it that day, or that week, but more than likely they got it. I say I am fortunate because I could easily have fallen into the “give them all they want” syndrome. I am not immune to loving my children monetarily.
I love the youth of today. I just hope they can survive our parenting.