So often we hear about how selfish and self absorbed the generation dubbed “Millennials” is. How they don’t want to work for what they get, how they want instant success and are too preoccupied with their phones to get anything of any value done. They are not voting in elections and they don’t seem to want to get involved.
Right? Damn Millennials and their avocado toast!
Some people call this generation the “echo baby boomers” since they are the product of those of us called “baby boomers.” As baby boomers we tended to have fewer children than previous generations, so the echo was not as big as the original “boom.”
My generation is a very different generation from our parents. Most of the people my age were too young to go to fight in Vietnam and then later were too old to go to Afghanistan. Our parents were the “greatest generation”, going through depressions and fighting world wars. They wanted the best for us and didn’t want us to do without. We were somewhat spoiled.
And then we decided to take that a step farther.
We wanted to protect our kids from failure and disappointment. We wanted our kids to be well adjusted and self assured, so we gave them participation trophies and did their homework for them, we hovered over them (thus the term “helicopter parents”) and made excuses for them.
If Millennials are any of the things that they are accused of, I think as their parents we have to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our parenting style. And then we probably need to take some of the blame.
I know what we see in the media about this age group. I know what we hear the corporate big wigs say on the news about this age group in the work force. I see the jokes and I know the consensus. And although I am sure those young people they talk about are out there, I also know that the negative is often what is highlighted. I know that usually the excessive minority gets the exposure more than the moderate majority.
Having worked with kids my son’s age at church and at his school back in the day, as well as going back to college as a “non conventional student” (old woman) I know a lot of Millennials. I know them from theatre and from keeping up with my former classmates and my son’s friends.
I’ll tell you what I see. I see young people with great ideas, who start non profits to help the world around them. I see people who are organizing to elect and be elected. I see people who want to save our planet, who accept each other for who they are. I see people who make art- they paint, dance, sing, make theatre and films. I see people who mentor the next generation.
During the recent Sidewalk Film Festival, I saw a documentary that highlighted a need. I walked away moved and then went on about my day. My son saw the same documentary with me, walked away moved and turned his feelings into action. He saw a need and next week he will start the process to fill that need.
At our church another millennial was given a gift that she wanted to try to pay forward someday in the future. For so many of us, we think that and then move on hoping maybe someday that we get an opportunity to pay it forward, but don’t actively make it happen. It is a nice thought, but that is usually the end of it. This young woman took matters into her own hands and is going through the process of donating a kidney to a complete stranger in order to make a difference.
Have I seen Millennials that want automatic success and don’t want to pay their dues? Absolutely. My generation taught them to only follow their passion and we never made them wait or work for anything. We forgot to tell them that success takes time. We forgot to tell them that they might have to work at something other than their dream job while working on that dream.
Too many kids’ in our neighborhood got a first car that was the vehicle you should spend your whole life working up to. And then we wonder why they are disappointed when they actually have to start their careers at the bottom and can’t immediately afford to upgrade that luxury car. It is hard for them to understand the concept of working their way up the ladder, when we put them on the top rung their whole life.
We didn’t let them fail, so they weren’t sure what to do when things didn’t go their way. We told them they were all winners, so they weren’t sure what to do when their bosses didn’t pat them on the back for “at least trying.” And heaven forbid they get yelled at!
With all of the mistakes we made as a generation, I do know lots of good parents. What mistakes we made, we made with love. We tried to be there for our kids, maybe too much, but our intentions were good.
Based on the millennials I know, this generation is going to see and do things we can’t even imagine. They are going to grow past what we taught them and hopefully save the world that I personally think my generation has tried to destroy.
I see a bright future for this next generation, if they can stay away from the trap of growing complacent. If they can push past the roadblocks thrown up by my generation in our fear of new technology and new ideas. If they can keep their creative edge, instead of aging into being satisfied with the same old, same old like we did.
If they can teach their children how to compete, how to not be afraid to fail and use that failure to learn and grow, how to work their way up and not hand them everything they desire, make them work for what they get, then I think they will surpass anything we have done. If they pass down the heart that I see in them to accept each other, help each other and love each other, it will all be OK.
I love Millennials, avocado toast and all. I see the continuation of our world in their hands and I am not afraid. I am afraid that the politicians and leaders of my generation might screw it all up before they are willing to hand it over to the Millennials. The Millennials might have to step up and pry the world out of our hands at some point to save us from ourselves.
I just hope that when they do, they are willing to forgive us and share that toast!