Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Are Gen X Parents More Whack Than Others?

Artist rendering of Generation X entitlement.

I just read A Teacher’sGuide to Generation X Parents, by Susan Gregory Thomas, an interesting essay which posits that the unique circumstances of Gen Xers necessitate special handling, especially when our children are concerned.

Generation X counts for about 48 million people in the US, covering those of us born between 1965 and 1979, and is sandwiched between the much larger Boomers and Generation Y.

I can concur that I worry our kids won’t achieve as much as other kids whose parents aren’t as emotionally evolved as we are, become frantic about arranging developmentally appropriate playdates (can your child please fill out this aptitude test?), need to hector school staff about the proper curriculum regarding organic beekeeping.

I found myself nodding in agreement with just about everything the essay said. I imagined the author wanted people like me to be self-reflective, but I just felt further entitled to call the kids’ school and complain about enforcing proper etiquette in the pick-up line. 

Perhaps I gave the biggest nod to the quote: “A lot of Gen Xers have this artisanal affectation, which comes from having sought out the margins of mass culture in independent bookstores, record shops, politics.”  Basically this describes all of Portland in a nutshell, so I felt further let off the hook for having to deal with self-improvement. Please disregard my recent post about artisanal salami.

Generally the source of all this neurotic behavior is that we went through the “all-important formative years as one of the least parented, least nurtured generations in US history.” Half of our parents are divorced and as a result we want to give our kids what we lacked. “If you want to know what’s unhealed from your own childhood, have children.”

The essay concludes with some tips how to work with Gen X parents, presumably educators, real estate agents, and vendors of artisanal salami can benefit. The list of essay headings includes:

  • Listen to Us
  • Include Us
  • Put Us to Work
  • Give Us Limits
  • Work with Us

I appreciate Thomas’ close analysis about the peculiarities of my generation, but ultimately her prescriptions just seem like general good advice. I’m reading the book Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success by Madeline Levine, who apparently believes that the excesses of Gen X parents outlined in Thomas’ essay are those behaviors found by any parent who currently has a kid in school.
My own experience supports Levine’s perspective – obnoxious parents beating down educators with PowerPoint presentations is a free-range animal spanning the ages.

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