Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Mini-Me Generation

Back when I was a kid, my friends were my friends, and my parents' friends were theirs, and there was nearly zero percent crossover. I wouldn't dream of hanging out with the children of my parents' friends, nor they me. My parents would not have dreamed of having supper with the parents of my friends.

Now, the world seems different. Or at least my world seems different to me. I'd been thinking about this for a short while when on Saturday evening, out to supper with my younger son's best friend's parents, who have now become friends of mine, a couple came over to our table to say hello. It was the parents of a fifth grade girl, who is friends with the fifth grade daughter of the couple with whom we were breaking bread. The parent of the fifth grade daughters are friends. Nothing unusual there.

In the course of this brief conversation, it was mentioned that the woman (not the one with whom we were dining) is friends with the mom of a fifth grade boy, who happens to be a friend of my son's. I found myself surprised. And then I found myself surprised that I was surprised.

It occured to me then how seldom it is that I hear of parents being friends with other parents if their children are not friends. Nowadays. Not when I was growing up.

It has always been said that "the apple does not fall far from the tree". But I wonder if this is particularly true in the generation of apples who are growing up now. Are we growing those apples to be more like us than our parents grew us to be vis a vis them? Are parenting trends different now such that the children grow up more identified with their parents, more similar in terms of social characteristics?

I was quite different from my parents socially, and I think they would agree. I was a social butterfly on whom my parents pushed violin and academics. But what I really liked was gymnastics and Barbies and accessorizing. When I was 14, I flubbed my All-State Orchestra audition, and I was free. I became a cheerleader and had my first beer at 15, my first cigarette at 16, all to my parents' chagrin. My mom was the valedictorian of her high school and considered herself an "us" to the popular girls' "thems". I am fairly sure that she considered me a "them". I ended up graduating in the top 10 percent of my high school class and getting into a prestigious New England university But it was a far cry from valedictorian. And all along, my mom seemed to pride herself in being different from the moms of my friends. They played tennis. She had a career. They belonged to country clubs. She didn't need such things.

I don't belong to a country club, but I don't shun people who do. And maybe some day I will join one, because I like being among "them". As do my kids. Even my older son, who is brilliantly academic and introspective, is also very much a social being at heart, to whom sports is equal in importance to academics. He plays the flute, but the flute takes a distant back seat to practicing his pitching and his shooting. And today he told me that for his upcoming eleventh birthday, he wants a BIG party. My younger son was born relating to people. He was a merry baby, and jovial toddler and a fun kid. As he "chugs" his apple juice, while being goaded on by his eight-year old cronies, I assume that someday, he will be pledging a fraternity and wearing stilettos around campus in the middle of winter after a night spent watching My Dinner With Andre for five hours straiht, all to show his commitment to his friends.

Somehow, my children are very close versions of myself and my husband, and their choices of friends make it easy for us to make friends of the parents of their friends. And vice versa.

Just this past week, my mom told me that she really thinks I ought to push Brian (I don't think she used the word "push", to be fair) to spend more time developing his musical talents. I reflected on that briefly, and as much as I would like to be that mom who can do that sort of thing, well, it's not me. And as I realized that, I also realized that I am raising my children in a highly "empathetic" style. I am doing for them what I think they would like to have done for them, rather than what I think I would have liked to have done for me, or rather than what I want for myself.

And, I think, there's the rub. I am starting to formulate this idea that my generation is following an "empathetic" parenting path. Breastfeeding. Co-sleeping. At times, perhaps a tad too permissive, at least according to our parents. Letting them dress the way they want instead of the way we want them to dress. Letting them keep their blankies and teddy bears even as they approach the age of 10 (mine was gone before I was six, to my dismay).

It might seem like a paradox that if we raise our children to allow their true selves to flourish, as opposed to pressing them to become more like ourselves, that they would end up becoming MORE like ourselves, with friends whose parents are more like ourselves. How to explain that paradox? I am not sure.

I know that Bebe is going to give me some MAJOR push-back on this post. But Bebe is a trained Child Psychologist. So, it would be great if she could put aside the emotional objections to what I am saying and help me to put together my theory here.

And I would love to hear any other thoughts you all might have.



Carl said...

I wish my parents had given me more encouragement in my interests when I was a kid. I think "pushing" kids doesn't work though.

samasthiti said...

When I was a kid, my parents friends kids were my friends. It's the same story with my family. But around twelve there is a shift...adolescence. It changes things a lot. The kids begin to pick out their own friends, and your friend's kids might become assholes. Hey, your friends kids might think your kids an asshole.
I see it happening with my daughter, and it happened with me. 12, maybe 14 since you have a boy...

Sorry about the teddy bear. That's rotten.

BeBe said...

You asked for it. Now you get it for outing me.

Your interpretation of the past and present are distorted.

1. We were indeed friends with some of Vanessa's friends' parents. Somehow, not with yours. Maybe it was your choice of friends. Dani C? Mindy L? Remember Acapulco with Dani and camp with Mindy? (a parent's nightmare).

2. I don't remember any people belonging to country clubs in West Orange. We did choose to live there in order to try to keep you grounded. "We can afford it. So why can't I have it!" - YC's childhood refrain.

3. You made fun of me for being "weird" because I didn't play tennis or shop at Saks. You taunted me for being different because I had a career.

4. In spite of your experimentation and testing of every possible limit, you ended up as quite the academic. (Of course, after we threatened to take you out of Tufts and send you to Rutgers if you got another "C").

We are not so different after all. You and I are the two Phi Beta Kappa's in our family, and that means we worked our asses off in college. Remember? So it did work out. My dream came true. You and I can share the secret PBK handshake -- whatever it is.

And although you ditched the violin, you are talented and you can play just about any musical instrument with ease - piano, guitar, etc. You also enjoy classical music. And you sang in every show during high school and through law school -- and at your wedding and at Vanessa's and now you harmonize in the choir.

5. I will confess that I did do some pushing and you pushed back. But now I will confess that I planned it all to come out well in the end. And you're not really that bad after all.

6. As to the present, the boys have been pushed and pushed to be athletic. Yes, you bear responsibility as well as The Husband. I have seen them in years past be resentful of all of the pressure to play team sports.
Wait until they become teenagers and you get your turn!

7. Brian is talented musically as are you. Math and music are highly related. Einstein was a terrific violinist. I think Brian's musical talent should be encouraged. Parents are there to lead and guide.

8. Your kids are individuals. Just as you are. Each is quite different from you, although each has many similarities.

I think your generational analysis is a bunch of hogwash.

BeBe a/k/a "mom"

BeBe said...

Nobody took away any teddy bear from YC. She had various stuffed animals that she fuzzed while sucking her thumb. When her turtle was a piece of fabric about 2 inches square, we gingerly threw it away after she dropped it on a dirty street. Her dad says it was on the corner of Raymond Blvd. and Halsey Street in Newark. YC never objected.

Nobody ever took YC's thumb away. It was always water-logged.


Yoga Chickie said...

Oh, mommy.

laksmi said...

wow, your interpretation is 'distorted'. could it be that you have your own experience?

laksmi said...

what's brian's blog address?

Yoga Chickie said...

If you mean Pokemon Master, it's It's Adam's blog. Brian doesn't have one.

Aubrey said...


laksmi said...

brian needs a blog. so does bebe. then we can begin to put the picture together and help you yc.

Yogamum said...

BeBe sounds cool and her comments illustrate exactly why I blog under a pseudonym and my mom doesn't know about it! I'd like to keep my illusions about the past. ;-)

BeBe said...

But, Laksmi, you already have the picture. YC has produced two outstanding boys -- BECAUSE she has followed in BeBe's footsteps.

I'm not biased. I just speak the absolute truth.

And don't you think that playing the flute is at least equal to playing baseball?

Samasthiti makes a very valid point about friends and their kids.

Yogamum rocks!

laksmi said...

playing flute is BETTER than playing baseball. I have no idea what yc's kids are like, and, well, you're biased on all counts. :)

BeBe said...

Don't get me started on YC's kids. They are totally great, as nobody can deny. YC is doing a terrific job.

I am biased, but it is still true. And, Laksmi, YC thinks your kid is great too.

samasthiti said...

Thank you Bebe, and I'm sorry I got the idea that you would steal your daughter's precious bear from her....YC, you should be ashamed!


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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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