Millennials…and How We Made Them

Millennials?..what were we thinking? Even the name sounds pretentious, as if they were Golden or something. If you’re the parent of a millennial, then this blog post is really for you. If you are a millennial then all  I can say is, there’s nothing wrong with you, despite what you’ve heard….

At almost exactly twenty years old, I picked up my only sister in Cincinnati on a cold January night full of snow and ice, and in my ’74 black Monte Carlo, we headed south on I-75 destined for the Florida coast (Miami to be specific). We never told anyone we were going, though it crossed my mind a thousand times.

For most of my life I’d been reporting – telling my mom where I was going and what I was doing. I’d never just taken the reins and made my own decisions. Our trip was the first time I’d gone anywhere far from home without a word and I felt guilty the whole way.

You see, I’d been trained against such behavior. I’d been taught to play it safe.

Although we did run into a few bumps along the way, my sister and I made it down to Miami and safely home in 3 days. Looking back, it was a miracle we did, but we travelled on faith and dumb luck; my first “real” adventure – one that would change me forever.

Curiosity, Self-Interest, Adventure and Risk-taking were all frowned upon when I grew into adulthood. Years later, disillusioned by the way I’d been raised, I vowed to do it differently if I had the chance. I think that’s how a lot of things got started with the current adult generation.

millennialYoung adults today suffer from a lot of criticism. People call them selfish, self-centered and narcissistic. I’ve read studies on how addicted they are to technology and consequently disconnected from society at large. People say they don’t want to work hard, are disrespectful and unwilling to take life seriously. That they’re unable to commit to anything, or that they simply don’t care.

But, that’s not how I see it.

Now, I’m not interested in defending every last nuance of this generation, but I would like to point out that we (the parents) had a lot of input from the get go and what we see is largely the outcome of our unsatisfied youth,… not theirs.

All the experience I was denied, I wanted my kids to have. Especially, I wanted them to have the opportunity to grow into their own person, regardless of my desires. I wanted them to be themselves. I wanted them to want what they wanted. I wanted them to be able to do whatever their hearts led them to do.  I wanted them to be fearless about life and really go for it. I didn’t want them to feel like they needed permission to live.

The truth is, every generation creates a new model based on what they wished they’d had, who they wished they’d become. We want for our children what we found lacking or unacceptable in our own coming of age and we make changes accordingly.

I know, if you’re anything like me, you wanted your kids to believe in themselves. You wanted to believe.

We wanted them to trust themselves and follow their dreams. We told them they could be/do anything if they put their hearts and minds into it. We taught them not to give up and not to take NO for an answer. We tried to teach them to listen to their own heart for guidance and not worry what others thought. So, they might not care what we think…

We wanted them to be brave and stand up for what they believed in. We wanted them to be fearless, to speak up for their own rights and the rights of others. We wanted them to fight for freedom, for fairness, for equality and especially, the oppressed. We didn’t want them to take any shit! And, they don’t.

We wanted them to succeed, but more importantly, we wanted them to be happy doing it. We didn’t give them a formula for this elusive experience, but tons of them are trying with their own formulas and even making them work. New outcomes don’t come from old methods, so we might have to let go of HOW we think they should find happiness and success.

We encouraged them, built them up with praise and kind words so they would know they were loved. We wanted them to be self-reliant, able to take care of themselves (especially, the girls). We tried to teach them to love themselves even when we didn’t know how ourselves. I think we weren’t very good “self-love” role models, but they took the idea and ran with it anyway. God knows, they’re trying.

It’s sometimes easy to focus on what we don’t like about our newest batch of adults. We can complain and point out the negative, or we can think back to our own youthful exuberance and try to recall exactly what we were thinking..when we wanted to do things differently. When we feel like criticizing who our children have become, we should keep in mind they’re only trying to fulfill our far out dreams of who they could be,… even though their approach seems altogether unfamiliar, let’s not be so surprised when they do.

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