Generation Hope

Today I turned my daughter over to the hallowed halls of our chosen high school.  Who could have expected this day would come so soon?  It couldn’t have been more than a year ago that I went head-to-head with her second grade teacher who made her scrub the bathroom during recess (she had splashed water while she washed her hands for lunch).  Normally the high school years bring waves of nervous laughter among rapidly-greying parents.  Not anymore.  I have been watching this generation carefully, making sure my daughter will find her place in the world and what I have learned certainly bucks tradition.  Of course, there are always exceptions.  In this case, they can be found loitering at the mall.  Overall, though, I look to this generation with anticipation and hope.  Most teens I see are willing to exchange a smile and they are very capable of carrying on an adult conversation.  When a teenager is at the counter at my favorite Target store or Subway or any of the other thousand chains I patronize, I can almost always count on friendly service regardless of whether the person is a boy or a girl. 

On a more personal level, though, I see the kids at my daughter’s school and church.  These kids genuinely care about each other and I don’t think that they could define catty.  They are intelligent in all matters intellectual and personal.  Most of these kids have defined qualities they are looking for in a mate.  They don’t date lightly, if at all.  Not only have they defined their future mates, but these teens have thoughtfully considered what their families will look like when they have them.  They understand that a fulfilling life is not a matter of luck, but rather a matter of purpose, and that is how they live.  Their purpose is not just personal, they all believe in the greater good.  This up and coming generation has no fear of being involved.  They understand what it is to support that which is bigger than them.  I see them, each with their pet cause, and it’s more than just lip service.  These kids work to make the world better already in their limited capacity as minors.  Each of them, one by one, is going to build a bright future from which we will all benefit. 

We parents may criticize the media, but I credit some of this optimism directly to them.  There was no Disney Channel when I was a teenager and somehow Disney and Nickelodeon have managed to hold the interest of these kids with their milquetoast offerings.  I am amazed that high school students are enjoying High School Musical and Camp Rock when I compare these movies to the ones we were watching.  Over the summer, I set out to have a great bonding time watching favorite movies from my teens with my daughter.  Um…Has anyone watched a little Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, or Pretty in Pinklately?  Not such wholesome fun.  We turned my favorites off at the second or third teenage panty shot and moved on to The Princess Diaries for a modernized movie night.  No wonder Generation X was a mess.  We were all latchkey children with unlimited access to all the drunken teen sex we could watch. 

And that, I think, is the key.  Generation X was the first generation to struggle.  We were not as successful as our parents, as exemplified in various statistics.  Teen drinking was at an all time high, as was teen pregnancy and, thusly, abortion.  There was renewed interest in recreational drugs, though I am uncertain if it truly rivals the baby boomers in the ’60’s.  It appeared that there was no hope for this generation to contribute to society via career or family.  But we turned it around.  We learned from our parents who, as baby-boomers, were the most self-absorbed generation.  They gave birth to the yuppie movement and the 3.2 children that came with it in their Prego strollers.  Then, they offered up housekeys so their careers were not interrupted by child-rearing.  They followed that up with BMW keys to soothe the guilt.  Then they split – baby boomers may not have invented divorce, but they certainly made it their own.  When we Gen-X’ers began having our own children, it didn’t take long to see the folly in our benefactor’s priorities.  We invested time in our children.  The emergence of women into the workplace grew the economy exponentially, but the Gen-X family model evolved along with it, putting dads into new household and parental roles.  Time spent together is precious and filled with laughing and fun as we see more and more leisure time (largely thanks to the hard work of the generation before us – it all works for the greater good).

Yes, the divorce rate is still high.  There are still teen pregnancies, and drugs and alcohol are still out there.  These are not the norm anymore, though.  Teens know that certain choices lead to certain destruction.  Finally, they believe it and act accordingly.  I am grateful.  Once a child hits her teens, the influence of her peers is greater than that of her parents.  Knowing that her friends are like-minded and have the world at their fingertips is Tylenol PM for the parent in me and for the future senior citizen that I am.


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