Lessons No Longer Taught
I’ve often felt that I learn the most when I’m the least comfortable. It’s in those moments or even periods of time when introspection happens or is foist upon me that I am most likely to grow, stretch and become a better person.
I got to thinking about what can only be described as a Millennial Meltdown over the election and several concepts were undeniable. There are lessons my generation learned that are no longer taught. The big question is … if we were taught them why aren’t we teaching them?
- This is apparently the first time the Millennials have faced disappointment. Disappointment is a very uncomfortable feeling. I became very familiar with it early in my life and my distaste for it injured that four-year-old child that lives inside all of us. You know the one, the one that can shriek with delight, jump up and down in excitement or even clap and squeal in anticipation. I can’t remember the last time I did those things, but I know they are rare for me. My aversion to disappointment has created a more circumspect adult than I was a young girl. Sometimes it makes me sad I don’t get super excited about things a normal person would, but inside I’m praying someone doesn’t snatch it away from me. This was learned. It is a defense mechanism. We all have them. I recall where I was when Obama was elected President. I took the last sip of my Champagne and said, “well, that sucks. I think I’d like to go home.” I did my part, I voted. I embraced the piece of the process granted to me by the Constitution and endured the results. It is simply what a civilized, emotionally literate (work in progress), mature person who has faced disappointment in their lives does. We deal with it and move on.
- “Thanks for showing up,” trinkets, tokens and trophies have given children an excuse NOT to acknowledge others. One of the most offensive examples of this to me is having to provide gift bags to attendees of your child’s birthday parties. I’ve intentionally kept my children’s birthday parties as minimal as possible because I like the focus to be on family and closest friends, but either way, your gift IS the party. You were invited. I’m going to feed you. You will have fun. You WILL pay attention to my child while we open gifts, not open gifts of your own because it is too much emotional strain for you to recognize it’s not about YOU right now. It’s a celebration for someone else. These same children will literally be bewildered when someone else is hired over them, when they don’t get into the college of their choice, when they aren’t selected for the lead in the play. These children are spoil sports, poor sports and don’t even understand the concept of a competition. They needn’t try, they will receive some type of an award. My children’s karate instructors give out belts to kids who have obviously NOT put in the effort- I told them I didn’t want my children to be given a belt they didn’t earn. When I was young, I had a friend who was a black belt. That meant something. Now it simply means you showed up for five years, once a week and can muddle your way through a form. Good luck with that bully.
- Embarrassment was always a HUGE issue for me. I so desperately didn’t want to be embarrassed or embarrass my family I was likely too timid and tended not to take risks. UNTIL, I wanted something bad enough. I learned at that point to overcome the potential for embarrassment and do my very best. However, if your parents never allow you to feel embarrassed (always have an excuse for your behavior) you will never learn to govern your behavior and you will no doubt embarrass yourself and your family for decades to come. I can promise you, fear of embarrassment is a powerful deterrent to behavior that is most unbecoming. You can look at hours and hours of footage of the Hot-House- Flower Millennials and be darn sure their parents do not have the capacity for embarrassment and never taught their children they should be embarrassed of their own behavior.
- I grew up with the term, “shame on you.” The first couple times I heard it, I sure didn’t like it so guess what, I didn’t do things that made me feel ashamed of myself. Nothing gets your attention like a parent telling you they are ashamed of something you’ve done. So, so many of those people should be deeply ashamed … but they aren’t. They didn’t learn shame.
- I’m highly susceptible to feelings of guilt. I can be made to feel guilty quite easily, but that is because I have the capacity to evaluate my behavior and determine whether I should feel guilty. Often times, I find I’m being “guilted” by my children, friends or family and it’s easy to spot. Other times, I actually have to have a sit down with myself. Are these people who are screaming hate and spewing vitriol, rioting, hurting others capable of feeling guilty about whom they hurt? Words hurt, isolation hurts, criticism hurts, fault-finding hurts. If you are one who doesn’t like to feel guilty or be made to feel guilty, you likely don’t guilt others or engage in conduct that would result in your feeling guilty. These children were not taught guilt.
- I remember the deep hurt of having my friends turn their backs on me in seventh grade. It was the result of a “power play” by my “best friend” who felt I was getting some attention and she didn’t like it. No one wants their children to experience uncomfortable emotions like hurt feelings. We want to leap to their defense and make it all go away, but it was in those moments when I learned who my real friends were and what was truly important in a friend and a relationship. Had that not happened, I might have not been so particular about the company I choose to keep. Lessons. Hard. Lessons. They are no longer being taught. Parents spend so much time trying to make their children like them, they have lost sight of what the role of a parent is.
- Accountability. It’s never your fault. You did your best (no they didn’t). We are so proud of you (you shouldn’t be your kid is lazy). Her parents helped her (probably, but so did you). It’s ALWAYS the fault of someone else. After all, if we force our children to accept blame, they might experience an uncomfortable moment or be sad. You might actually have to discipline them.
- Know your place. Children now create their place instead of being told what their place is and when. I am so tired of having children insert themselves into adult conversations. When I was young and “over heard” and questioned an adult conversation my mother told me to “mind your own business, elephant ears.” Oh, no, we wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings! Yes, definitely explain to them why you are having a crisis of affection in your marriage … some conversations are not for children to hear or discuss or interject. When I was young and the adults congregated, the children were asked to go play. Now, I have to sit around in a room full of parents who let their kid share their seat while the children bleep and whir on media.
- Respect your elders. There is no such thing anymore. There was a satirical quote by Mark Twain and you will forgive me if it is not exact … “I’d respect my superiors if I had any.” That is the way children are today. They calculate to undermine those put in a position of authority. Teachers are stripped of power in the schools, parents hand their power to their children on a platter, coaches hands are tied and every parent’s principle goal is to create advantage for their children and preserve their tender little spirits.
I try to slowly move my children through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Food, water, shelter, clothing, education, support, love, kindness, compassion. We are teachers. Coaches. Protectors. We are not their friends and there needs to be a clear line of demarcation between children and parents. I see it fading every day around me. The good news is, if you do it right, you will be best of friends when your children are 25, living on their own and gainfully employed.
Screw it up and they will be living with you until the mid-thirties, you will be cooking and cleaning and continuing to pad their little nests. My guess is, the parents secretly want this because they have no sense of self. They need their children to have an identity at all. Sad. You are denying your children the opportunity to individuate.