Baby Boomers vs Gen X, Y, Z…

Apparently this is a thing. I heard it from my youngest daughter. Who is Gen Y I believe. AKA a Millenial. So, awhile back we were having a phone chat and Drew was educating me on my generations distaste for her generation. I know I am a boomer but I have never really known what the differences were with each generation. I admit, I also had to look up the names and age ranges. It’s not that I am uninformed, which I guess I actually seem, it’s just that I don’t really think about it. Not to say I don’t care because that just sounds mean. The fact is I am pretty wrapped up in me. My life. My days. My age. Wherever you are in your life, if you are younger than sixty, I have lived it. Perhaps society was different when I was twenty but I had the same hopes and dreams for the future. The same fearlessness. My life was stretched out before me and there was so much I could accomplish.

I am one of the last few years of the boomers. Although my generation is a product of the post war affluence, my family personally did not partake. My folks were immigrants and as such had a bit of a hard time. There were ups and downs economically but in the end my folks had a comfortable yet modest life. We, their boomer kids all did better financially than our parents. Education was hit or miss with all of us but we are all comfortable in our declining years. We were also all fortunate enough to be in positions where we were able to help our children in one way or another. It was an easier time to do well even without a University degree although we all did have some form of post secondary education.

My oldest daughter is a late Gen X. Born in 1980 she is on the cusp of the millennial generation. I guess that means she is actually a bit of both gen x and y. It’s like your astrological sign. Being born on the beginning or last few days of any sign defines your characteristics but then also has you drawing on the next or preceding sign. She does seem to be a bit of both. While growing up, she embraced many of the characteristics of her peers and society norms of her age group. We were young parents with little money so her upbringing was one of two parents working. Our social life included her always in the early years due to lack of funds. You can go out or get a babysitter. You can’t afford both. We relied on Grandparents. A latchkey kid at 13 she was afforded great freedom which brought greater responsibility. It was a time of home computers and MTV. Gen X is often thought of as the lazy or unfocused generation. My own daughter was more of a “fall into your life” individual. Consistent with the times. She blames our parenting style. She believes she would have done more and gone farther if we had pushed. Or perhaps she would have resented us. Who is to know as that was not the path taken. As an adult though she is more influenced by those people who she has chosen to include in her life. She lives her life quite far outside the boundaries of her childhood and youth. While she often would tell us how amazing her childhood was, there were things she would resent us for which would later influence her choices. When I read about the millennials I realize cusp, or no cusp, my oldest swings to gen X.

My other daughter is millennial completely based on her year of birth and in many ways she is also a product of the times. Tech savvy and individualistic she also embraces social causes and freedom of expression. As a child she was very me me me but time and circumstance brought out less hedonistic views of the world. The over praising of the millennial generation did bring a higher level of self worth. They say millennials are narcissistic and self centred and it may be true but perhaps no more than in previous generations. Social media has shown a side of life that we never saw before. It perhaps exposes things that were already there. Thus we attribute things to a certain age group rather than human nature. Different from her sister, daughter 2 embraces the parent skills we used that suit her purpose while discarding others. More money in the home during her teen years created less of a materialistic angst. It also created a time of less one on one with us. Her parents. Her life was also one of great personal freedom although she was more apt to refuse interference unless she asked for advice. She is still that way and her face has a certain look that I have come to recognize as “I am not going to argue with you but if you keep it up things will not go well!” Strong-willed is very much an adjective we attribute to her and her generation. While they may have earned the “me generation” title it is true that they are much more inclusive of all others in their individuality. She does echo these sentiments.

Child number three is at the end of the gen y/millennial era. He did move home a little more often than his sisters but he also finished his education at a younger age. His childhood was more alone than his sisters and the freedom was in tune with his personality. An introvert, he needed the time to refuel after being in the world. He found peace in being near us and the comfort home provided. He came to value the individual rewards over “everybody gets a trophy” attitude of the millennial childrearing era. He realized early his privilege of having us pay for his education and as such graduated the earliest of all my children from post secondary. His old fashioned beliefs perhaps helped as he felt in time he would need to care for a wife and children. Although out on his own for many years he is more apt to visit for a weekend. Soak up the vibes of home. He rents his condo as he isn’t sure where he wants to end up. He is also less likely to purchase material possessions. No cable, but a streamer. A transient in the world. Like many his age, floating and looking for a place to land. Waiting until older for marriage and a family is more him and his generation. Unlike his sisters. He embraces more of the individualistic style of the millennial generation and is more in tune with changing technology. An “ideas” guy so to speak.

I admit that I am still very unsure of the ins and outs of the various generations. I see the world through the eyes of my kids and grandkids and realize how my parents must have felt raising kids. I realize I can’t really understand these younger people as my experiences are so far removed from theirs. I had a phone with a long cord so as a teen I could go around the corner far from prying parent ears. My children had a “kids line” so they wouldn’t use mine all the time. My grandchildren have cell phones. We all have cell phones but the grandkids don’t even really know about the landlines. Our memories are different. I am passing through this advanced technological age as a sixty year old while the grands are seeing it in a different way. I impose my biases on the world. Not through malice or ignorance but sometimes through fear of the unknown. For the most part I need to reassure my kids that I am not spending my life judging them as horrible people. Nor do I find their various generational traits to be distasteful or plain wrong. I recognize that as time moves by the world is becoming a better place in so many ways although we seem to be trying to kill it faster. The zeitgeist of the millennials of diversity and inclusion can confuse us old people. On the surface the concepts appear mutually exclusive. That’s the beauty of the generation though. Their depth. I am falling behind the times as happens to people as they age. But it is okay. I am not upset. I love the freedom that age affords me. I don’t have to fix the world anymore. I still do the odd protest. Jump on a bandwagon or two. Rage against the machine in my own little way. But I am tired. I recognize the torch has passed. And keeps passing. But it is going into good hands. So my dear daughter, I don’t think your generation is all bad. I can’t help the other old folks who trash talk you. Perhaps they have too much time on their hands. They need hobbies. Perhaps they are afraid of change. Well, that is deep seeded so… I have reached a time in my life where I think more about what little time I have left. There isn’t any time to worry. I have a life to live and there are things I still need to do. I can help out now and again and do my part to heal the planet, but it is up to you and yours to make this a better world to live in. You are on the right track in so many ways.

Looking at my kids, I know their lives were influenced not just by me and my husband but also through where we were in our lives. Because we changed. Constantly. Me more so than Rene’ but we learned as we went and it was passed on. Plus our situation changed as time went on and our own fears impacted the children differently through the passage of time. Society had an impact on our kids directly but also indirectly though us. Nothing stays the same. Everything changes. We look back to the past as a kinder gentler place because we want to remember it that way. The truth is that we create our own angst. In so many ways. We like to blame others for the bad stuff but it’s just a cop out. My kids are who they are for many reasons not just because of the year they were born. And in the end I tried to make their lives easier than mine. Because I loved them. It would be stupid to chastise them if life was good. Especially because I helped in some small way. Hopefully. Blaming an entire random generation for the woes of the world says more about the person doing the blaming. Besides, I remember thinking my folks were old and out of touch. Just like they thought we had it too good. I guess that is the one constant. So I may slip now and again but I will try hard to see the good. Regardless of age. And I will stand with all who try to make the world better. And I will push back on the wrongs of the past so they don’t happen again. I’ll have your back. And those of your kids. Because you matter and there is a lot on your shoulders. All of you. And if I seem to be standing in the way, lets talk. And I promise I will try not to pigeon hole you or your peers. I have learned finally, to treat others as I wish to be treated. With respect. Frankly it really shouldn’t be that hard and it shouldn’t take this long to figure it out.

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