Can you remember when you were a kid in kindergarten, taking naps on a throw rug, brought from home? How we looked forward to those tiny pints of milk handed out each day, slurping the cream off the top. Our tiny family of four sitting in front of our big radio, would listen to programs like Fiber MdGee and Molly or Mr. District Attorney. I scarcely noticed when friends of Mom and Dad’s dropped in, drifting into the sun parlor where they could talk about awful things going on somewhere over there. As teens we were barely aware of people older than us. We were more concerned about how to get rid of pimples, dress cool, get accepted by the popular kids and figure out how to be on our own.
I drifted through those years oblivious of the big issues of war and peace surrounding us. Instead worrying about how to pay for college did catch our attention as we puzzled about whether or not to marry—even more concerned about who to marry, start a career, have a kid, finally beginning to see the importance of knowing much more about the world around us.
It is amazing how so many of us, later wrapped up in our own marriages, families and careers, were slow to see that our own kids were growing up in a very different world than us. I started college in 1950 when colleges were hungry for students who were just beginning to be influenced by how the G.I. Bill of rights could be making college affordable for veterans and their girlfriends. I jokingly said only a pulse was required to gain entrance to our public universities. Jobs were plentiful. Affordable new homes were bursting forth for returning military and graduating high school seniors. The joint was jumping with families, young folks, construction workers, college graduates to fill all these suddenly unmet needs. By the time I married, starting a family and new career, my husband and I had many job opportunities and affordable child care options for our new families. Not so for my child 18 years later. The world of generational differences was only beginning to be studied by sociologists such as Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman, authors of “When Generations Collide”, written in 2002.
As we find ourselves bridging these generational gaps, where, we may wonder, has our youth gone? Nobody told me I’d one day be this old.