Have you ever thought much about the generational gap? Does it really exist in this information age with new emerging technologies?
This Christmas just gone, Chris and I had the extreme pleasure of flying across the globe to spend a week with our four children, their partners and our grandchildren in the Arctic Circle in northern Finland. We stayed together in a “lodge”. We planned the event over three years and were thrilled to have such a special, treasured opportunity.
It was the first time we had all been together in the one dwelling with our children as adults, the eldest 32 and the youngest 24, with their partners. There was much to think about when I came home, most of it warm family memories. But I was also moved to contemplate my role in life as grandmother, anew.
I’m 56 now, a well-adjusted empty-nester. I pride myself on staying abreast of change and remaining relevant to the younger generation. I accept changing cultural values as inevitable, embrace them even. I perceive my children as being not much different from me, though I’ve been aware at times that they may not share this same sense of equality. It seemed easy to delude myself … because deluding myself I was.
Being with the family for such an intensive period was actually a little confronting. For the first part, both Chris and I were a little shocked at the change in our social status within our “tribe”. Chris really put his finger on it when we got home. They don’tneed us anymore. Wow. That’s good, but also confronting.
But further reflection on the week had the impact of unveiling my delusion that the generational gap didn’t really exist for me. It is as wide and broad as it has always been and I’ve been extremely naive to think that it wasn’t. Of course the kids were never under any such delusions.
The best example I can think to demonstrate the point is … it’s all in the ‘wind’. Wind is a topic my generation is most likely to avoid and yet it’s a topic our children don’t avoid, but accept openly. Actually they haven’t even grown out of finding it hilariously funny! Of course I’m talking about … farting!
I’ve witnessed this change and thought I’d accepted it openly as I watched the younger generation’s open honesty about their bodily functions. They give due warning when unpleasant smells are involved, display a willingness to take ownership for the most part, when accusations are raised. It all seems so much healthier than our ‘pretend it didn’t happen’ approach which borders on complete denial. ‘Fart’ was a very rude word, even taboo, when I grew up. Even now, though its usage is pervasive, the word still grates.
After living with our children for a week, I came away realising that while I accept these changing cultural practices and am no doubt more relaxed than my parents, I don’t really partake in them. I continue to stoically remain in the tradition in which I was raised. The children, sensing our different perspective, never really share with us the same way they share with each other. It’s an instinct, I guess. (Wasn’t I the same? … der!)
So there you have it … the generational gap. It’s alive and kicking and always will be. I’m sure my kids were never in any doubt, more fool me.
The experience made me think about how we must so imbibe the value systems of our time as we grow up that they become part of our fibre. (No wonder the social science research centres identify unique names for each generation.) Of course I acknowledge that it must be possible to change but … it’s darned hard, harder than I realised. Perhaps it’s not worth the effort for such a relatively trivial topic … or is it? I wonder if I had the courage to pull down some old boundaries, where it might lead? Do I want to? Should I?
No, I’ve elected to remain comfortably settled in my Baby Boomber status. I will never breach the generational gap … and that’s okay. It’s the natural order of things. But, I still can’t help wondering how far the next generation might take this freedom of expression? I hope I at least get a peak, as it will be very interesting to see indeed.
Life goes on and though changing cultural values emerge with each generation, the fact that the older generation struggle to adapt, shall never change.
In the meantime, I shall remain as open and communicative a Baby Boomer as possible.