The stage and film musical satire Bye, Bye, Birdie contains a great song,” Kids.” If you are not familiar with the song, find and listen to it. You’ll get my point fast.
Many of my contemporaries and several of my elders wonder if today’s kids are worth a hoot. The numerous seeming differences in Baby Boomer and Millennial youth generate responses from bemusement to outright shock.
“They have absolutely no respect!” “They show no regard for their future” “They just don’t know the value of hard work” “They expect to start at the top” “They feel entitled to have and do anything they want” “Don’t they understand how crappy all those tattoos will look when they are sixty?” “No conversation skills”
These comments recur often. Some critiques are even less charitable and informed. “They don’t know how to do anything” “No manners!” “So immature” “Weak; useless”
I’m bewildered, myself.
I know young people who married for motives that never crossed my mind when I was young. They wed to achieve foreign citizenship, ‘star’ in a good wedding, get outfitted with gifts, because their friends are doing it. Why not? One young friend assured me her ill-advised marriage was “no big deal; it’s not like it’s forever.”
They communicate non-verbally. My teenaged daughter and her friends rode silently in the back of our van as I chauffeured them to and from events. “Why aren’t you visiting with each other?” “God, mom. We are!” They were texting each other.
When my daughter was job-seeking, I suggested she visit candidate businesses with homemade muffins, a lovely printed resume, flawless business attire and a smile. “You can’t just show up, mom. Doors are key-coded. It’s all done on-line.”
My late father said, “The older generation always thinks the next one is goings to the dogs.”
I’m fortunate to actually know several young people, friends of my kids, who visit often. And they are completely different than my contemporaries and I were at their ages. Their culture is different. Their concerns are different. Their abilities are different. But, these young people are amazing.
They get concepts 60 year-olds still struggle with, living in the present (vs. past and future), using innate resilience to navigate depersonalizing life challenges, and letting go of what doesn’t work in their lives. They embrace ‘new’ unafraid, not intimidated.
The kids I know are absolutely free of bigotry, intolerant of intolerance. They care deeply about social inequities, political dysfunction, and our planet’s future. They may not always show up in person to challenge the status quo, but boy, do they mobilize around those who do, with Facebook blitzes, Yelp condemnations, support Tweets, and crowd sourcing.
They understand how to exercise and expand their personal power to effect changes they want to see in the world, that their dollars are louder votes than ballots, that they can shut down offending businesses and movements through social media.
I think the body art is silly, the green hair passé, and the sexual ambiguity amusing. But really, the only matter with kids today is their skills and attitudes may not have been of much use in ‘our day.’ Are ours much use in theirs?