Over the past couple of years, I have made a conscious effort to not sound like my parents when talking to my sons and others in the Gen Z and Millennial age groups. Mainly because I disliked the “when I was your age” conversations when I was young. As nice as my childhood was, it really wasn’t all great.
Take cancer, for instance. I never heard of cancer back then. To my knowledge, no one my parents knew had cancer. What I do know is that my dad and every adult who came to our house smoked cigarettes – inside the house. Warnings were not printed on cigarette packs until 1965. Until then, we knew very little about the health problems smoking causes, including lung cancer.
When I was growing up, sunburns were just a part of life; no one knew it could cause skin cancer. Sunblock was not widely used until the early 1990s. Once our sunburns dried up, we would have great fun peeling off our own dead skin to see how big a piece we could remove intact. Sounds pretty stupid, but we didn’t know any better at the time.
Domestic violence and divorce were never discussed. No one I knew had divorced parents and none of my parents’ friends were divorced. I do recall one time when Mom and Dad had a couple over for a visit with their small children, one of which was a baby. I was about seven and in my bedroom when I heard the woman go into the little room next to mine to change the baby’s diaper. Of course, I had to peek through the keyhole (yes, the keyhole). Her husband came into the room a couple of minutes later, they argued and he started slapping her around. I ran out and told my dad. He quickly threw them out of the house and I got in trouble for snooping.
Speaking of diapers, older generations say young parents are spoiled because instead of cloth diapers, they now have disposables. Newsflash: Disposable diapers were invented in 1948 by Johnson & Johnson. While I do agree that more eco-friendly disposable diapers should happen soon, I still have visions of my mom taking my little sister’s loaded diapers and plunging them in and out of the toilet until they were “acceptable” for the washing machine. Very nasty business.
Before we continue regaling our young people with stories about how much better they have it than we did, we need to stop and think about what we’re saying. Isn’t that what we wanted, what we worked for – to make things better for our kids? Thanks in part to modern technology, young people today are smarter than we were, and have access to information at their fingertips 24/7. We need to bite our tongues, let them do their own thing and create their own stories.