Wednesday, October 10, 2007

you're as young as you feel

I think we all tend to grow more reflective as an impending birthday draws closer. I had an interesting conversation with Tom last night on that subject, and I hope he won't mind if I share it. (If you hate this, T, just tell me and I will delete it.)

Tom was telling me that on his birthday last year, he realized that he had become the age that Ben was when he was born. I think it freaked him out a bit, and he told me that he felt totally unprepared to become a parent even now, a year later. "I'm still a kid myself," he said, "I have so much growing up to do yet." I hastened to agree with him - heck, yes, he is still a kid. My kid. And Kristy is a kid and Julie and Andrew and all their other same-aged friends are still just kids. That is my emotional response to the thought of any of them becoming parents.

When I look at it rationally, however, they are all at least in their mid-20s heading into their late 20s now. The same ages Ben and I were when they were born. None of them are emotionally-stunted or immature, but they seem so much younger to me than we did at the same age. Why is that? I think one reason is that my generation has consciously or unconsciously (or perhaps a bit of both) tried to keep their generation feeling like children.

I don't think it was done maliciously. Like much of our generation, Ben and I always wanted to raise our children differently, better, than we were raised. Although my dad never made me feel as though he resented spending money on me, Ben had a different experience. As he was growing up, his father made it abundantly clear to him that as soon as Ben turned eighteen and became an adult in the eyes of the law, all of his father's support and obligations to him, legal and otherwise, came to an end. We never set a use-before date for the love and support we offer Tom and Julie. It is endless.

However, this loving attitude has a bonus, if you will, for my generation which I think must be acknowledged. As long as they stay children, we stay young. If we are forced to recognize this generation as adults, parents even, what does that make us? Well, grandparents, of course, and, let's face it, older rather than younger.

I have a feeling this new way of looking at things was invented by us bounteous baby boomers, but I could be wrong about that. This is certainly the first time I have ever been this age, and I suppose it's possible that each generation feels this way about the subsequent one. Some further research in this area may be required. I've been thinking about driving out to see my dad, anyway. Stay tuned for updates.

Note: I suspect this post assumes way more responsibility for the way our children think than we actually have. But, hey, it's my blog, and the opinions expressed herein are mine and this is where I express them. See?


Kristy said...

Let me tell you that this perspective is SO much better, in many many ways, than the "Does your car have room for a car seat - when will we be (great) grandparents - I can't believe you don't have kids yet - everyone else is doing it - isn't it about time you started a family" attitude.

So thank you so much for that :)

anne mancine said...

Oh good. I am so glad you feel that way. When to have children is one of the most intensely personal decision you will ever make. Exactly two people should have input on that decision - you and Tom.

Also, I am glad to know that you are not offended that I think of you as still being a "kid". At the same time, I think of you as a capable and intelligent woman, but I think you know that.

Kristy said...

Yeah, I'm totally still a kid and I intend to stay that way for as long as I possibly can :)

Still though, seriously, thanks for not asking about "pitter patter of little feet." That phrase gives me a repulsion similar to what you experience with "golden showers."

Ben said...

"...they seem so much younger to me than we did at the same age."

True, true. And at the same time we seem younger to you than our parents seemed to us when we were Tom & Julie's age?

Maybe the older generation always sees the younger as seeming much younger, just as they see themselves as younger. And maybe all of this helps them distance themselves from actual old people.

My theory about why Baby Boomers and their ilk try to stay forever young goes back to one night in the late 1950's when every child in the country sat in front of a glowing TV screen and watched Mary Martin sing "I Won't Grow Up" in her role as Peter Pan. Too obvious, too simplistic? Maybe. But kids are impressionable, and we were kids.

Schutze said...

Of course, it could also be economics.
This was the quickest article I could find, but our generation has it much worse of than the baby boomers economically.

Having children AND building a career and enough wealth for a comfortable life is much more difficult than it used to be. Many of the "more educated" in our generation are waiting longer to have (fewer) kids than their parents, because they don't want to experience a decrease in their standard of living.

Schutze said...

ummm, "much worse OFF" :-)

anne mancine said...

Let's also blame economics for the fact that my generation is the first in a very long time, if ever, here in the U.S. that cannot expect to do better than their parents did.