If one is as prone to falling hook, line and sinker for Generational Theory the way I am, several storylines make a lot of sense from the 1970s until now. The beef with the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942) was that they went through the sexual revolution at the same time the Boomers did, during the late sixties. The problem was, unlike the Boomers, the Silents already had kids, making the little ones suffer through their parents’ sexual awakening and key parties. Cue divorce, latchkey kid syndrome, and basically MY generation.
Thus us kids born in the sixties and seventies grew up with a presently-unacceptable amount of danger: no bike helmet laws, lots of eating food off the floor, sitting three inches from the TV, and popping Thalidomide like aspirin. Or, in the case of my family, it was long stretches of untethered drifting followed by periodic bursts of hellish micromanagement. Your mileage might have varied.
Enter the Boomers having kids in the 80s and 90s. I haven’t done the comparative research, so don’t hold me to this, but the Boomers’ kids are the most protected, coddled, mollified, drugged, organized, litigated and structured children in the history of the planet. The Simpsons, as usual, say it best with the omnipresent woman at every school event who wails “won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?!?“
And now, as is evidenced by my blog entry of last Friday, it is our turn to have kids. Back when we were working on the generational books, I gave a lot of thought to how I would raise future children, even though it was to be another decade before Lucy showed up. I kept coming to the same conclusion: a monitored freedom. Take the barefoot learn-for-themselves quality of the 70s that I had, and mix it with the digital know-how and research of the present day.
As many of you with babies know, that is a tightrope the width of a human hair. There’s so much information about what your kiddie is ingesting – in the womb, in breastmilk, and in the lungs – that sometimes you just want to hermetically seal your brood inside a giant bottle of Purell.
This is especially a big conflict when it comes to certain drugs a parent needs to emotionally survive, and the conflicting reports of what the drug may or may not do to your little tyke. In circumstances when it seems like all the research is inconclusive, and nobody really knows anything, Tessa and I developed a rule we call the In Case of A Drop in Cabin Pressure Syndrome, shortened to The Oxygen Mask Rule.
When you’re on the plane, the flight attendants always tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then tend to your children. I’ve always thought this made a lot of sense in pretty much all aspects of childrearing.
Your kid is hearty and chances are it’s going to flourish. You, on the other hand, are prone to the vicissitudes of your insane situation. Fix yourself first, keep yourself functioning, and then concentrate on the child.
I don’t mean this in the way the Silent Generation did: they “fixed themselves” in order to self-actualize and make themselves better people for themselves only, with the kids as an occasional annoyance. Our generation, in contrast, must “fix itself” in order to become better parents, to breathe deep the oxygen and immediately serve Captain Squirmypants with a clear head.
I knew Tessa first. If Lucy is screaming and Tessa is screaming*, I’m running to take care of Tessa. Tessa is the lighthouse that keeps all our boats from crashing on rocky shores, and Lucy, although I love her more than life itself, is probably just hungry.
*Tessa never screams