Don’t get me wrong, I love my Boomer parents. But they sure made some cringeworthy parenting mistakes.
Hey, I’m under no illusions that Generation X parenting mistakes won’t be any less scarring on our kids. And that in time, we too will need to atone our sins.
But for now, it’s time to call out our parents.
See if you can read these Boomer parenting mantras without cringing…
I Just Want You to be Happy
Boomers, having rejected capitalism (whilst simultaneously reaping the windfall benefits from it), were bursting with feel-good ideology they were anxious to pass onto their offspring – you.
Happiness, they concluded, was all you really needed in life. And happiness consisted of feeling good.
We believed them.
In fact, many of us grew up mistaking happiness for feeling good. We thought happiness was pleasure. The more you feel good, the more happier you’ll be. Right?
So when we grew out of ice cream we took up drinking. We went from playgrounds to sport sex and from kids toys to, well, bigger toys. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the rabid pursuit of booze, sex and boats didn’t make us happy at all.
The self help industry went into hyperdrive as an entire generation asked, “WTF mum?”
And Sometimes a Bit Unhappy?
Turns out, happiness is built upon some not very pleasure-y sounding things at all.
Prime among them are relationships. Good relationships are an essential part of happiness. Without them, and all the convulsions and drama and inevitable pain-in-the-ass-ness they bring, our lives would never be as rich and fulfilling as they could be.
For all the downside, relationships have massive payoffs: love; trust; support; purpose; and companionship. You just can’t get that stuff from jet skis.
Long-term ‘happiness’ also increases when we pursue personal growth, seek challenges (and accomplishment), focus on purpose (or something that engages us) and develop positive emotions like gratitude and compassion.
But at least the Boomers didn’t give us the previous generation’s parenting advice: marry young, breed lots and don’t get too attached to the kids because they’ll probably croak it from small pox or whooping cough.
You Can Be Anything You Want To Be
Hmm. Appreciate the inspiration, but our Boomer parents didn’t realise that we actually believed them. We really thought we were going to be the next Neil Armstrong or Madonna or Michael Jackson or Lady Diana (in the not-dead years).
We were kind of surprised to not find ourselves stepping onto the moon, or at least a sold-out stage, by our mid-20s.
So we ran out and bought everything Tony Robbins produced and we diligently listened to them all on the way to work. Still, we remained stubbornly average.
Damn you, reality.
Our Boomer parents made the same enduring mistake that a very loud portion of the self help world makes: dial up the inspiration to 11, and downplay the reality of what it takes to ‘make it big’.
In reality, our upbringing, culture, genetic raw material and plain old luck create inertia that is difficult to overcome.
Sure, you can break free through determination, a willingness to take risks, learning from mistakes and through pure, dogged grit. But did you? Was that you up there on stage with silver ice cream cups inverted on your boobies? Or landing on the moon?
We aspire, we work hard, we learn, we connect and grow. Self help advice brings reflection and growth, and yes a heathy dose of inspiration helps motivate us.
We generally live pretty comfortable lives. And at some point we find ourselves compromising, consciously or not.
The lives we build for ourselves are a little too cosy to give up for the relentless grind of doing more than everyone else to stake a claim to an extraordinary life.
So the stage lights in our mind dim and the moon seems even higher in the sky. We set our sights on more modest achievements.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, we never quite silence the echoes of our Boomer parents’ mantra, “You can be anything you want…”
The implication irritates us. We could have been extraordinary… But we weren’t. We are ordinary. The thought hangs in our minds, growing louder when our mood darkens. Banging like a storm shutter in the wind.
And as a generation, we seem to have developed an innate sense that we somehow underachieved by not being ‘amazing’.
One last one, real quick.
Eat Everything on Your Plate
This Boomer parenting mistake should be killed off too. Though it is still widely practiced.
Generation X was stuffed with meat and three veg from the moment we could chew.
Many of us passed on this parenting mistake to our kids.
Nutritionists now discourage the ‘Clean Plate Club’ as evidence shows that forcing kids to eat everything on their plates just teaches them to overeat.
But this tide is turning, and Gen X parents are much more open to encouraging healthy eating habits.
I bet I made you hungry now…
Check out this hilarious post on Generation X’s, umm, heroic parenting techniques.
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