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What Will Today's Generation Be Remembered For: Prepared for Anything, or Too Coddled?

The Patch Mamas discuss what they think their children will be most remembered for. What do you think about today's generation? Share your comments with us!

Melissa Schools
What will be the legacy of our kids’ generation? This topic was kind of blowing my mind at first. I was reading articles and thinking and philosophizing, trying to distill it all into a catchy phrase, or a pithy word or two. Then I realized something: Our kids are still kids. Even the actions and decisions of teenagers and young adults out there can only indicate a trend or possible outcome. One random blog post I read stated that we may never know the legacy of a generation until we see their grandchildren.

Interesting. Though that statement may seem to take away from the direct
accomplishments of a particular generation, I like very much that it reminds us that we are all connected and that no one can really act in a vacuum.

What I do know is that our children’s legacy is yet to be decided. It’s easy to focus on the negative attributes of “today’s youth” because they command attention by their nature. I think of the little hoodlums who vandalize the playground near my house or the car packed with teenagers that blows past me in a 25mph zone, music blaring, and I realize something. I’ve become a veritable caricature of the stereotype who shakes her head, clicks her tongue and sighs, “Kids these days! No respect! Where are the parents?!”

When I take a deep breath and a step back from in-the-moment reactions, however, I see that there are good, brave, responsible people all around me, struggling to make meaningful examples of their lives. I see hard-working, earnest parents, striving to instill values in their children who will also grow up to be good, brave, responsible adults. Not everybody, mind you- there are some terrible parents out there and rotten kids, to be sure. But one tantrum in a grocery store over candy makes neither a terrible parent, nor a rotten child. It’s called a bad day, people.

Take a little stroll through just our own Wakefield Patch and see encouraging stories of girl scouts hosting a , or local kids sponsoring a for charity, or Wakefield residents the Boston Marathon for others (). Yes, you may have to scroll past the police blotter, but look for the good and you’ll find it.

I’m not trying to go all Pollyanna on our readers, though. I know there are many challenges that face kids and parents alike in our world today. From
drugs, bullying and the premature exposure to sex, to over-scheduling, financial woes and fractured family relationships, there are a lot of obstacles to smooth parenting. Each generation has struggled with raising good kids in the face of evil influences and disadvantaged circumstances, but history shows that greatness can flourish in spite of it; sometimes right out of adversity itself. Helen Keller, Steve Jobs and Lance Armstrong jump to mind, but there are countless other examples of triumphs of the human spirit to behold.

The point is to put the foundational work into our kids now and then have some faith in those foundations and realize it’s not all up to us. For goodness’ sake, read to them, love them, listen to them, laugh with them, support them, give them stability. All this is possible to some degree, regardless of economic circumstances or family relationship situations. But also be open to the possibility that teachers, librarians, churches, family members, neighbors and friends – your community – can help to support you, too. In this way, we can help shape the legacy our children’s generation will create for the better. If you think the next generation is headed to “hell in a handbasket,” then by all means get involved and help turn things around. The community, the town and the world will be better for it.

Tasha Schlake Festel
I know I’m going to sound like that old fart who walked up hill to school both ways – in the snow – but I gotta say, I think most of today’s kids are pretty coddled.

I don’t remember things being like this when I was a kid. So… pampered. In contrast, I remember not always winning games. I remember not getting trophies when I wasn’t first, second or third. I remember having to fend for myself in socially awkward situations and defending myself to my teachers. I remember getting bad grades when I’d earned them – and keeping them because it was what I deserved. I remember competing, losing, and crying. I remember staying out in the neighborhood with my friends. After dark. Without adult supervision. And living to tell about it. I remember being put in my place regularly and not feeling entitled just because. I remember earning the good things that happened to me and accepting punishment for the bad things I did. I remember, you know, being a kid.

The generation of children we’re raising today won’t – for the most part – have many of those memories. As I see it, many of them are learning to live in a bubble, where they always win, stay clean and safe and have mommies and daddies that will fix anything that goes wrong. They’re learning that they’re entitled to nearly anything they want without having to put in the time and energy to earn it. They’re learning to be scared of the world that might hurt them. They’re learning that there are few consequences and if there are, someone else will take care of them. They’re learning that “participation trophies” are just as good as first place.

On the other hand, there are a lot of fundamental things they are not learning. I don’t see them learning to be independent, to get hurt, to heal, to communicate, to win properly, to show grace, to accept rejection, to fight their own battles, to be strong, to lose. It makes me sad that they’re missing out on those important lessons.

I know why these things aren’t being taught. They’re hard. And it hurts to see your kids learn these difficult lessons. Our job as parents – our most important job, really – is to keep our children safe. We all know what it’s like to “break up” with a best friend, to fail a test, to lose a game, to be under prepared and overly embarrassed. It sucks. Truly sucks. And we don’t want that for our kids. But by protecting them – however well-intentioned – we are crippling them and setting them up for inevitable heartache as the hurts get bigger and their tool boxes are woefully empty.

I want this generation of kids to be known for overcoming their well-meaning helicopter parents and for being independent, driven, creative and successful people. I hope they transcend the suffocation of lovingly over-protective mothers and fathers and follow their dreams, whatever they may be. In fact, I don’t just hope that happens; I expect it to. I just expect that it will take them a little longer to get to them since they’ll first have to achieve all of the dreams their parents have told them to have.

This generation of children has so much to offer and so many ways to express it. I want them to be known as the generation that kicked ass
as soon as their parents stopped kissing it for them.

Laurie Hunt
I think many assume today’s kids will be remembered for being spoiled, coddled or even helpless. I also think many blame today’s parents for this. Is it their parents fault?  In some cases yes, in other cases no.

I am someone who grew up when pregnant mothers smoked, you could drink from a hose, ride in the bed of a pick-up truck, never use hand sanitizer and survive.  When I was a kid there were always other kids around to play with at the park or in the neighborhood.  There were also plenty of moms who were home and “the village” helped keep an eye on the kids when they were out and about. When my nose was broken at the schoolyard (because I stuck it where I should not have) by my best friend swinging a bat when she went to hit the pitch thrown to her; both my mother and her mother were right there to hear the screams and help with the emergency. 

This crazy world we live in is not the same world I grew up in.  We talked a little about this when we talked about .  I often drive my girls to “play dates” arranged with a phone call or text rather than tell them to “just go outside and play."  Do I do this to coddle them?  No.  I do this because there is not always someone around for them to play with in the neighborhood.  I would not send my 9 or 11 year old off by themselves to walk across town alone in search of someone to play with and I certainly don’t think that is crazy of me. The times the neighborhood kids are around they do, of course, go out and play.

Why are kids in so many activities? We talked a bit about this when we discussed “”.  While I do feel most kids are over-scheduled I will also point out that when I was in middle school we could take sewing, cooking and even woodshop. We don’t offer that in school today - I send my daughter to Sew Trendy on Franklin Street in Melrose for sewing classes. When I was in elementary school I took piano lessons at school – there are strings offered here in Wakefield but not until the 4th grade. School is much more about time on learning and those foolish MCAS exams than the life skills taught when I was in school.  (My grandmother tells me she learned to make good corners on a bed and mashed potatoes with no lumps in school.)  

I think part of what is referred to as helicopter parenting is crazy – such as
stories of parents trying to reach out if their child doesn’t get a job or into
a certain school.  Having said that I think it is great that my generation is not afraid to question things on behalf of our children and advocate for them. There is nothing wrong with, respectfully, questioning a teacher or a doctor about your child.  I would prefer to think of it as setting a good example for my children to learn to do it for themselves because at 9 and 11 they are not always able to do it.

I think we all do the best we can with what we have.  I also think that too many people have too much to say about what others do and I hear the most negative comments from people either without children or who have not raised children themselves in decades.  And don’t misunderstand me, they had it tough too when they raised their kids, but things are different and unless you are living it I don’t think can fully understand it.

I hope this generation is remembered for being raised in a crazy ever changing world and knowing how to adapt and embrace those changes.

Regina Martine
I was born in 1970 – right smack in the middle of what has become known as Generation X. Older generations thought we were a bunch of cynical, unmotivated slackers who wore grunge clothing, changed jobs too often, and probably still lived at home. We were well educated, but the kinds of jobs we thought would be available with our shiny, new college degrees just weren’t there and for a while, we were a generation of very well educated waitresses and bartenders. But we were resilient and resourceful and we eventually found our way.

Then we all became parents. So what about our kids? What will they be known for? It has been said that today’s kids are too coddled and too protected and that we as parents are waaaaaaaay too involved in our kids lives. And while I am sure there are some parents who feel their kids can do no wrong, I think the vast majority of families try to find a balance between protecting their kids and allowing them to experience the lessons that life has to offer.

I think this generation of parents tries to prepare our kids for everything and protect them from the dangers of the world at the same time. We enroll them in sports and dance and extra math classes and chess club and want them to be challenged academically and creatively. Why? We want them to be ready for anything, since we feel like we weren’t. I think we overprotect and over prepare our children because we don’t want them to face the same hurdles that we did. As a generation, we had the rug pulled out from under us at every major event in our lives.

When we graduated from high school in the 1980s, the stock market crashed, when we  graduated from college, the recession made jobs impossible to find, when we started having children, the U.S. was attacked by terrorists for the first time in history. When we bought our own homes, the housing bubble burst. Nothing has been easy, and a lot of us feel like we were unprepared for most of the major setbacks in our lives. This is not a result of how our parents raised us, but a fundamental change in how American society works. We were simply the victims of bad timing. We are also bombarded with 24 hour news coverage of disasters, terrorist plots, sexual predators, and kids being bullied into committing suicide. I think as a generation, we perceive the world as a more dangerous place than our parents did when we were young.

Will all this helicopter parenting ruin our kids? It depends on who you ask. Some think that making kids wear sunblock and bike helmets qualifies as extreme overprotectiveness. There is a difference between protecting kids from real danger  and coddling them. Will they not know how to survive on their own? Will they expect their parents to do everything for them? My kids won’t. I tell my kids all the time that my job as a parent is not to do things for them, but to help them learn how to do things for themselves. I think they will succeed in ways we can’t even predict right now.

Jillian Sallee
“He says that he wants to talk about big picture stuff. And to be perfectly honest, I have little or no idea what that means...probably bad.”       
               
-Michael Scott, The Office

Like Mr. Scott, I am a small picture kind of person.  I handle the day to day workings of our house, the minute-by-minute activities of our kids, details of meals and snacks. The minutiae of keeping our house and kids from catastrophic meltdowns takes up the majority of my brain. The little bit that doesn’t fall asleep as soon as I hit the pillow is spent pondering the relationships on The Bachelor! Trying to imagine what this generation of children will be remembered for makes my head spin a little.  

I do know what I would like my own children to be remembered for.  

  • I would like my children to be remembered as good members of this family. As someone who can be counted on and trusted. I would like their children to know them as caring and loving parents.  I would like them to be the kind of grandparents that spoil and dote on their grandchildren.

  • I would like my children to be remembered as people who are educated and who use their education in a way that makes them happy. Whether that is an outdoor education that has my son climbing mountains or a PhD that has my daughter teaching history to college students, education is important.

  • I would like my children to be remembered as people who took care of their dear mother in her old age. Bringing her Yodels and making sure her stories are being taped.
  • The truth is, other than wanting my kids happy, healthy and contributing members to society, I want them to reach as far and as wide as they can in their dreams. I will help them achieve their dreams by teaching them how to handle the details of life but the big picture is going to have to be up to them. As far as how they will be remembered, as long as they are satisfied and smiling...”That’s what she said.”

    Tasha Schlake Festel May 02, 2012 at 06:18 PM
    Why am I always the outlier? Am I really that different? <sigh> There must be someone out there who agrees with me... Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
    Sara Jacobi May 02, 2012 at 07:25 PM
    Tasha, I agree somewhat. I have a few friends that remained dependent on their parents for EVERYTHING (laundry, car inspections, car insurance, taxes, money, clothes shopping... etc.) well into their mid-20s. It wasn't because they aren't able to support themselves... their parents just did everything for them so they never learned how to do it themselves. I don't think this is what happens with *most* kids these days, but parents should definitely find a way to teach self-reliance or they're going to end up with a completely unprepared young adult who is scared of the world around him/her because they have no experience with it.
    Melissa Schools May 02, 2012 at 07:27 PM
    We'd look too scripted if we all agreed or wrote in the same vein. Booooorrring! Plus, I DO agree with you! I was just trying to take a nicer angle this week.
    Heidi-Jean F. Rossicone May 02, 2012 at 07:31 PM
    I agree with you and everyone else. The thing is, you all made valid points. :) Also, I'm not sure that all of the points are generational or if a lot of them span many generations. We are noticing these traits now because this is when we are bringing up our kids. I think we need some Grandmothers to attest to that. However, they often "forget" what it is like. lol. My Mom brought up eight children born between 1949 and 1972. I will ask her if it's all the same stuff, different day. I certainly do agree that a lot of kids are coddled and not taught basic manners like "the world doesn't revolve around you" and "you don't interrupt adults", etc. Those are basics that we would have been put in our rooms for, at the very least. But I also agree that it's a different age when it comes to walking to school and being outside unattended. I do not believe it's the media reporting more crime, I really do think there is more crime and it is fearful to let your kids go in this day and age. I could walk to school without fear. I can't say the same for my kids. On the other hand, I never hand pick my kid's teams or classes because I feel they need to be able to adjust to every situation. I feel our real job is to make sure our kids can thrive in adulthood without us. But then.... I guess that would start with walking to school? lol. I've got it! The kids today will be known for their "Conflicted Parents"!
    Tasha Schlake Festel May 02, 2012 at 08:17 PM
    Somewhat?? Oh, stop being so PC, Ms. Jacobi. ;)
    Tasha Schlake Festel May 02, 2012 at 08:21 PM
    I love how different we all are on this panel and seeing every week how much we both agree and disagree. We are a motley crew, for sure! Some more motley than others... but I won't mention any names. :)
    Tasha Schlake Festel May 02, 2012 at 08:24 PM
    H-J, I was told today by a friend that I am not sane and do not even give the illusion of sanity anymore. Of course, that was said in jest (I hope) and out of love (I'm sure). But it made me think that maybe my kids should be commended for their ability to overcome their mother. Maybe that's what all kids should be recognized for!
    Regina Martine May 02, 2012 at 08:36 PM
    When I went to college (in 1988) I knew lots of people who had never done laundry or cooked anything for themselves. I don't think parents coddling their kids is anything new!
    Diane Lee May 03, 2012 at 10:53 AM
    Kids are too coddled and entitled this day and age and it is the parents. I volunteer alot within the school and am a GS Troop leader, so I deal with all types of kids and parents (not just my children's friends). We teach life lessons early in our house. Life isn't fair and it is never going to be. Everyone is not going to be your friend, your not always going to be first and your not going to get everything you want. My kids would have play dates everyday, have every newest electronic thing out there and every high end fashion item if they had their way. The kids have chores to do, but they do get an allowance. My daughter really wanted a cell phone we got her one with the condition she paid for the insurance of the phone, so 1/2 her allowance pays for the phone insurance. As they grow older we hope we have given them the tools to make the right decissions, stand on their own too feet and survior adulthood.
    Melissa Schools May 03, 2012 at 06:03 PM
    Where's Don? He inspired the topic, let's hear from him! Heidi-Jean & Diane, thanks for the comments! It certainly is a multi-faceted issue. I know that all I can really influence directly is my own family, but it would be awesome if all families made manners a top priority in child rearing. Think of the life skills it gives them! (and makes the little darlings more tolerable) Heck, talk about starting toward world peace a step at a time!
    Heidi-Jean F. Rossicone May 09, 2012 at 09:45 PM
    Tasha, that is hilarious! I think it takes a lifetime for a girl to come to terms with not only surviving her mother, but turning into her! OH NO!
    Melissa Schools May 21, 2012 at 01:45 AM
    So, the generation might be doomed after all... http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-unteachables-a-generation-that-cannot-learn/?singlepage=true

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