Both Mommy and I were born a few months apart in 1981, the year that began our generation. The way we will parent you will be different as compared to how it would have been if we were part of the generation that ended just a few months before we were born; Generation X was born roughly between 1964 to 1980.
As the sort of first-born of my generation, I am constantly trying to figure out what makes us different from previous generations. After all, people say that Millennials were the first children not to rebel against their parents. That’s pretty weird…
On the surface, it may appear that we are sheltered, narcissistic, jaded by the polar extremes of American politics, motivated by recognition more than money, obsessed with green living, and easily inspired by social justice issues.
I’ll be honest- it wouldn’t be a stretch for someone to describe me in any of those ways. Actually, I wonder how else I appear as a stereotype to other generations of parents.
In fact, I’m so curious about the traits of my generation, especially as they relate to being parents, I have decided to pinpoint 5 token traits of Generation Y parents:
1. They give their own kids either extremely classic or extremely original names. For every Jack there is now a Brody and for every Sarah there is now a Hadley. Millennial parents tend not to name their kids the popular names of their own generation, like Chris and Matt for boys, and Amanda and Jennifer for girls.
2. They want their kids to be, or at least seem, unique. That’s part of the explanation for some of the bizarre baby names popping up these days. Millennials were raised to believe they were special; evidently more special than every other child of The Eighties who was told that. Now, Generation Y parents subconsciously still wish this extra dose of uniqueness on their own kids.
3. Millennial parents are overly self-aware of their parenting style. Everybody’s watching, all the time, thanks the social media outlets and blogs we plug into on a daily basis. We make sure no one can ever question if we’re involved enough in our kids’ lives. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? To spank or not to spank? To helicopter parent or not to helicopter parent? Those are the questions.
4. Facebook replaces the necessary phone call update and proud wallet pictures of our kids. There’s no real need for us as parents to pick up the phone and update our friends and family on what our kids are doing, nor is there reason those people should be desperately curious to see new pictures of our kids: There’s a constantly updated flow of that on Facebook every day.
5. They are really into what their kids eat. Back in the 1980s, processed food was king. Now, the awareness of disease, cancer, and obesity has caused parents to actually question what “natural and artificial flavor” means. Trust me on this, you don’t want to know. There’s a reason food companies keep those ingredients a mystery.
So there you have it, son. Hopefully I’ve taught you a thing or two about why your parents and your friends’ parents are so quirky…I mean, “special and unique.”
Have you ever thought about how if your parents raised your kid instead of you, you’d probably end up with a much different child?
The irony is that your own parents raised you in a way that ultimately causes you to raise your child differently than they would.
Sometimes I feel a little bit bad about the potential stress I put my parents through when I have them watch Jack for an afternoon or overnight. It’s not simply, “Here the kid. See ya!”
Instead, it’s more like this: “Okay, here’s his sleep and nap schedule, and exactly what he needs to eat for each meal, and make sure he doesn’t watch TV either…”
I guess it somewhat resembles the concept of the classic TV show Family Ties, where the parents were easygoing and their son Alex P. Keaton was… basically the complete opposite.
Comparing myself to my own parents raising me in the 80′s and 90′s, I feel that they were also nicer than I am. They didn’t seem stressed out by this parenting thing; the way I often am as I raise my son.
I admit, at times, I take being a dad too seriously.
And I know it can’t just be me who feels this way when they compare their own parenting style to their parents. There are undeniable generational and cultural differences between Generation X and Y parents and their own Baby Boomer parents.
Of course I am very aware, too, that my son is wired differently than I am. My mom said she never had to worry about me trying to play in electrical outlets, for example.
As for Jack… ha! I can never turn my attention away from him for any given second. He’s way too adventurous to trust at this age.
Evidently I was a well-contained little boy. Well, my son is definitely not.
Even if I tried, I would not be able to raise my son to be just like me. But maybe my parents could….
There’s no denying it. An active and involved dad in a kid’s life is a big deal.
But beyond the bare minimal cliches like showing up for ball games and ballet recitals is a dad who cares enough to tell his kids “I love you.”
And “I’m proud of you.” Regularly.
I think about the token Freudian question, “How is your relationship with your father?”
Surely we are all aware that where there is anger or mistrust or distance or absence in regards to one’s father, there is a higher risk for a tougher version of life in general for that individual.
I’ve pointed out before in “The Positive Re-branding Of Fatherhood” that today’s modern American dad is either very much a part of his children’s lives or he is completely not in the picture at all. The typical Generation X and Y dads are not likely to fall somewhere in between the two extremes.
Therefore, I think it’s safe to say that a dad who is in the picture is not afraid to emotionally express those words that every child needs to hear.
As for our own dads and their dads, were they told “I love you” by their own fathers? From what I’ve gathered from real life conversations and movies starring Kevin Costner, I am led to believe the answer is no.
I don’t think I’m odd for telling my son I love him and for kissing him on the cheek at least a handful of times each day.
That’s normal and expected. And though I won’t kiss him in public as I’m dropping him off for school by the time he’s in Junior High, my physical and verbal affection for him will still remain strong.
It’s interesting to try to sort out what is masculine as opposed to what deserves a man card being pulled.
(I tried writing a blog post about it once but it turned out really lame, so please don’t go back and read it because I’m very embarrassed by it! I so seriously wish I could delete it from The Dadabase.)
So while I will admit I’m not the kind of dad who will likely become “that dad” in worst of ways, embarrassing and emasculating my son in front of his friends by overly expressing my easily earned love and approval for him, he will be able to give a positive and endearing answer when it comes to answering the question:
I admit it. Last week I became an instant fan of the new NBC sitcom Up All Night starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett. It is described as “the funny misadventures of a ‘cool couple’ with a newborn,” on page 28 of the October 2011 issue of Parents magazine. So far, the main premise of the show seems to be how a new mom and dad attempt to remain cool people after having a baby. As simple and even as shallow as that may sound, it actually makes for a very creative and relevant TV show.
Maybe it’s a trait of my generation (I’m 30), but I feel like parents of young kids today focus more on staying cool than any prior generation. We clearly remember seeing the hilarious “Mom Jeans” skit on Saturday Night Live and their appropriate slogan, “Because you’re no longer a woman; you’re a mom.” After seeing that, I think it’s possible that we, as an entire generation, decided to be more proactive about our post-baby hipness.
Admittedly, as for myself, I don’t want to end up a bland soccer dad with an “un-ironic mustache” and the hairstyle of a weatherman, who wears my cell phone on a holster attached to my pleated khaki pants. But it’s not simply about fashion; in fact, that’s the least of it.
More than anything, I believe my generation’s “stay cool after being a parent” motto has more to do with the fact that in elementary school, we were constantly told how unique and special we were. Now, as adults, we find much of our own coolness in the very things that make us unique.
We don’t want to become a boring stereotype of a lonely housewife or a henpecked dad. Instead, we want to keep our individuality while proudly displaying our ability to effectively parent.
And let’s face it: Being a parent is officially cool! From the rise in popularity of the stay-at-home dads, mommy (and daddy) blogs, and simply just being able to share your baby’s pictures with your 800 Facebook friends, being actively involved in your kid’s life totally increases your “cool points.”
So maybe as new parents, we don’t get out as much, we’re physically drained by the end of the day, and we struggle to embrace our new identity; but that doesn’t necessarily make us less cool than when a positive pregnancy test showed up in our lives.
If it’s possible to gage one’s own coolness, then I would have to say that I’m much more cooler as a 30 year-old dad than I was as a 24 year-old single guy. The forced maturity I have had to obtain during the past year of my life has taught me to become more relevant to the human population in general.
So because I understand other people better, I become more relevant in my culture. And isn’t that kind of what being cool is about anyway; being culturally relevant?
My wife and I have a catch phrase in our house: “millionaire mindset.” Whether we are discussing an unnecessary purchase or are patting ourselves on the back for money we cleverly saved somehow, we speak our code word to each other.
It’s our way of reminding ourselves that in order to be successful with what we have been given and blessed with, we have to think with the mindset of a frugal millionaire who worked hard for his fortune. It’s not that we are trying to become millionaires, but it sure won’t hurt if we are wise in our spending; and more importantly in our savings.
So we are not ashamed to use store brand products, to buy used stuff for our son off of Amazon.com or Ebay, and to make our own baby food for him. We keep in mind that while name brand products tend to impress people, they are counter-productive when it comes to financially prospering in the long run. Having a child makes you reconsider your spending habits as well as your saving habits. After all, our son starts college in less than 18 years from now!
There was a time when bigger and flashier was better, when it seemed most people refused to buy store brand products; right down to their hand soap and kitchen table condiments (like it matters that your bottle of mustard says “Kroger” instead of “Hunt’s”.)
I think it’s safe to say that the modern cultural movement is now towards simplicity. We, as a nation, are learning the meaning of “living within our means” and not consuming more than we actually need; that credit cards are the devil and that frequenting all-you-can-eat buffets are an invitation to onset Diabetes.
We get it now that money isn’t everything- and more importantly, that it in theory it’s a waste of time to spend our entire lives chasing more money, only to find that by the time we retire there may be nothing left for our own social security. Money is simply a necessary evil, as far as I’m concerned.
My wife has said several times since we’ve been married, “I could never be a millionaire because I wouldn’t know what to do with the money- I would end up giving it all away.” Exactly. Because no one person can legitimately spend anywhere near a million dollars within a reasonable amount of time, without giving a good portion of it away. Sure, it can be invested, but ultimately, it’s a matter of asking what the end goal is in investing that money. I personally just don’t see much of a point in investing in a bigger lifestyle only to encounter more overhead.
Who knows, though? Maybe all it would take is a million dollars to prove me wrong. I doubt it though. I prefer a laid-back, low maintenance lifestyle. I don’t like extra noise even if I’m wearing the most expensive ear plugs.
I’m sure part of the reason my wife and I have this generational mindset is because we were both born in 1981; the crossroads between Generation X and Generation Y. We were told our whole lives that money isn’t everything, but being happy is. So we believed it. And I guess we always will.