Mommy, what’s a bastard? Mommy, what’s wrong with being one?

June 30, 2010

Recently I took my 9-year-old to see the original version of the Bad News Bears — you know, the Walter Matthau version. I think it was an edited version, because I was waiting for the scene where he writes the word “assume” on a board then divides it up into “ass” and “u” and”me”. Anyhow, that scene wasn’t in it. But there were lots of instances where the boys on the team called each other bad names.

And which bad name jumped out at my 9-year-old? Bastard. So he asked me:

9-year-old: Mommy, what is a bastard?

Embarrased mom: It’s a bad word, an insult. I don’t ever want you to say it.

Overly inquisitive 9-year-old: OK, mommy, but what does it mean really?

Mom: It’s when someone is the child or parents who weren’t married. A long time ago that was shameful.

9-year-old: What’s wrong with your parents not being married?

And there you have it — what is wrong with it anymore? Nothing to my son’s generation. Half their friends are products of unmarried partners, accidents, single parents, and more. So who is a bastard anymore anyhow?


Can you explain your job so a seven year old can understand?

May 6, 2010

My kids don’t really understand what I do for a living. They know I write, they have some vague understanding that I work with the news people. But they don’t really get what public relations is.

So it was really tough this week when my seven year old’s grade one class called on parents to come talk about their jobs. I kept trying to think of how I would explain it. Could I find a way to describe PR so kids could understand?

Do you understand what PR is? I find many adults have a vague understanding but don’t really know themselves. I teach a course on media relations and even then I feel like it can be hard to define without a lot of examples.

So what did I tell the seven year olds? I asked if any of them have seen a reporter on the news, then asked if they’ve ever seen a reporter interview someone about what’s going on in their organization. Almost all nodded yes, so I told them I was that person being interviewed. They seemed to get that, so I told them I write a lot, and talk a lot. I asked if they like to write. Lots of kids raised their hands. I told them they could be in PR. I asked if any of them liked to talk (my son was first to raise his hand at that!), and then told those that raised their hands that they could be in PR.

When I was a kid, my dad was an engineer, and that’s the only part I understood. My mom “helped people with problems,” which is all I understood about her role as a social worker. I don’t think I really explained the essence of my job to the grade ones, but at least I came up with an explanation they could understand. Could you do any better?

Passing on traditions to the next generation — am I doing a good enough job?

March 30, 2010

It’s Passover at my house, so on top of all the regular running around, I’ve spent the last day or so cooking. On this major Jewish holiday, we host family and friends for two big meals. I usually only have to cook for one, but the friend we always go to for the second one can’t do it this year, so I’m doing two big meals. Lots and lots of cooking.

My husband says it’s all on me to do it, because no one else really cares what we eat for dinner or whether I make the chicken soup with matzah balls from scratch, or if I serve my famous chocolate torte for dessert. He might be right, that I’m putting myself through all the holiday stress for my own reasons and not for my family or my guests. But I feel obliged to do it and do it right, because it’s tradition.

As a child, both sets of grandparents were around, and each hosted one Passover meal each year. We kids recited the four questions and my grandfather read from the Hagaddah, the book that tells the story of the Jews being freed from slavery. My grandmother always had matzah ball soup, gefilte fish, and all the trimmings. My mother did some of this cooking in later years as my grandmothers’ health failed, and by the time I was in my 20s, I was hosting my own holiday dinners, trying to carry on the tradition.

Of course, these aren’t just my traditions, they go back hundreds and hundreds of years. But they are also personal traditions that I want to pass on to my boys. My kids attend public school, and don’t get a lot of exposure to Judaism that doesn’t come from me. But soon they’ll have to start Hebrew school to prepare for their bar mitzvahs (Yes, I’m insisting on them.), and hopefully one day will carry on some of my traditions.

But it’s tough to get school-age kids, boys in particular, to pay attention to that kind of thing. And I worry they aren’t picking up on enough of my family’s traditions. The entire weight of that is on my shoulders, and my husband is right to say it’s me that’s pushing for all that. I think I’m pushing for all the right reasons though, but I’m concerned I’m not getting through.

Still, now that both boys can read, they did read parts of the Haggadah out loud themselves last night. I think that’s a good first step in passing on my traditions.

Generation X can take care of themselves, but Gen Y thinks they are so special, it’s okay to be taken care of

March 7, 2010

A new study released recently in the U.S. illustrates just how special Generation Y, or the millennials, really think they are. And yes, I am a bitter Generation X-er, but I normally save my contempt for the baby boomers. This study may show the optimism — in the face of a bad economy — by the current bunch of 20-somethings, but I can’t help being reminded of how coddled their generation was by their boomer parents.

The “Generation Next” study, released February 24 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, says 18-to-29-year-olds — “millennials” — remain optimistic, despite a job-killing recession, two wars and the threat of terrorism.

According to the study, while Generation X says, ‘I can take care of myself,’ millennials have no problem with shelter. They say, ‘I get it, I’m special. You want to shelter me.’

I am again reminded of an episode of American Idol, where a girl was auditioning, and not very well. The judges told her to stop, that she couldn’t sing well and should give up any hope of a singing career. She exited the room and told the camera that the judges were stupid. She knew she was terrific, she knew she could sing, and nothing they say could change her mind.

And why should it? Her parents likely told her for her entire life how special she was. Building children’s self esteem was what boomer parents were all about. My parents, and now in turn me to my kids, taught me that I can be great, if I work at it. That failure is a part of life, and it teaches you how to better yourself.

I worked my way through university, I paid my own rent as a young adult, and I made decisions for myself. I want my kids to do the same, and not just because I am too cheap to pay for their university, although I probably am. All that taught me how to stand on my own two feet, a key skill in this century.

It’s the same in the workplace. I don’t expect an employer to take care of my future — I have to do that myself. I have RRSPs, not a company pension. I pay my own way for professional development, and take advantage of every opportunity to build my skills and expertise. My dad worked for the same company his entire career. I’ve moved around so much it’s hard to list every employer or client I’ve had. This is the modern workplace, and if Gen Y expects to be sheltered, will they be able to succeed in the same way Gen X might?

And whither Generation Z, as my kids’ generation will likely get named? Will they learn self-sufficiency, or will the boomer hangover make them also reliant on shelter from above?

Are my kids Generation Z?

July 27, 2009

I read Douglas Copeland‘s novel Generation X when I was in my 20s, and it really put a fine point on all the angst, anger and alienation I’d been feeling my whole life living in the shadow of the boomers. It defined my generation for me, and gave me such clarity about my life.

Now that I’m a middle aged, parenting Gen Xer, I observe subsequent generations with a more detached view. I know now that not everyone is defined as easily as I felt Generation X defined me. Still,  I do find generational definitions have some merit. Like the way Generation Y is defined as having strong egos and an endless supply of self-esteem.

My favourite example of this was an episode of American Idol (which someone of course pointed me to on youtube back when) when a really bad singer had her tryout on one of the early episodes. The judges told her she couldn’t carry a tune and should stop trying to force her singing on anyone. She left the room head held high and told the camera “I don’t care what they say. My parents always encouraged me to believe in myself. I know I’m good” or something to that effect. Gen Y grew up with their boomer parents constantly feeding them positive self esteem to the point that these kids had their cups running over with it.

Anyhow, that’s old news now. Gen Y has grown up, and they’re becoming parents now too. They are learning humility to go along with esteem, just like we Gen Xers learned humility to along with the chips on our shoulders.

But whither Generation Z? That apparently is the moniker given to the next group of kids, which according to some demographers includes my kids, born in the early 2000s.

I read a column today by one of my favourite bloggers, Penelope Trunk, called What Generation Z will be like at work. She says that Gen Z kids will not be team players (that’s my youngest!), will be more self-directed (my youngest again), will process information at lightning speed (my oldest for sure and possibly my youngest) and will be smarter (both my kids, but of course I say that, they’re my kids!) than Gen Y. So perhaps my boys are smack in the definition for Generation Z. I hope they won’t grow up bitter like my Gen X gang, nor self-absorbed like some Gen Ys tend to be (Please don’t flame me. You know it’s true!).  Of course, considering the back talk my older one has been exhibiting the last couple weeks, maybe he’s still in the Gen Y cohort. Or not.

Are your kids heading towards the definition (so far) of Generation Z? Or is it too soon to predict what our kids will be like as adults. Discuss.