I have an issue that’s been weighing on my mind for years but that really came to a climax last weekend. Not being a very confrontational person, I thought I’d throw it out there as a rant to the general public. Here’s what happened:
Trent, Camden and I decided to go out to dinner, only to find upon arriving at the restaurant that the restaurant no longer exists. Right. So, we drove around trying to find a place that we all liked. We usually go out quite early so that we avoid the dinner rush (and wait) and so that we can make it home before Cam’s bed time. However, by the time we settled on a place, it was prime time for the crowds, and we ended up sitting in a cramped lobby with a surprise hour-long wait … with a two-year old. After exhausting the toy stash in my purse and trying to talk to and sing songs with an unresponsive, wiggly, unwilling participant, I broke down and watched a movie with him on my iPhone. Now, anyone who knows me very well knows that this was a huge sacrifice on my part. I don’t like TV, and I don’t watch very much and rarely allow Camden to do so either. It’s just a personal preference; I feel that there are so many more constructive, stimulating things to do in this world. So, I sat there, watching with him and talking to him about what was going on. Before I knew it, we were under the watchful eye of an elderly couple sitting across from us, and the lady was giving her husband a running commentary about what a bad mother I am. “At least she’s talking to him,” she said, loud enough for me to hear. “She’s telling him about pots.” Yes, honey pots, to be exact. We were watching “Winnie the Pooh.” I had the mind to go over and tell her so, but then would she have just chalked it up to my disrespectful generation? I was also left to wonder if she would have had any less criticism for me if I’d let my child fuss and whine and make a scene rather than doing my best to entertain him… which brings me to my point:
Can’t I, as a member of “the younger generation,” do anything right?
I discussed the restaurant experience with Trent in the car on the way home, and he, with is infinitely calm and wise manner, advised me to just let it roll off. I would like to. But how many times will I have to do that? Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident.
A few months ago, I was rushing to the hospital and was in quite a hurry in the parking garage, where I was following a black SUV through the packed aisles. The truck drove right past a small, compact-sized parking space, so I turned into it. Halfway through the maneuver, I was surprised to see the truck’s reverse lights shining in my face through my driver’s-side window. He almost hit me. I pulled into the space, my heart pounding after the near collision, and got out of the car, ready to run into the hospital, as I was already late for my appointment. But not fast enough. The black truck continued backing until it blocked me in, and then the passenger proceeded to roll down the window and the driver and passenger began yelling at me and telling me that I took their spot (you know, the one they had just driven past to the end of the row). I told the man that it was a compact-sized spot and wouldn’t have fit his SUV anyway, to which the lady replied. “You are so rude! What a disrespectful generation!” I kid you not. When I finished in the hospital, I found the SUV parked around the corner, in a spot about 15 feet away. And yet, I was left to wonder, “Am I a rude, disrespectful person?”
On another occasion, I was unfortunate enough to be part of a discussion on provident living where a lady made the comment that “Members of the younger generation don’t bother cooking or sewing anymore. All they know how to do is open a can.” I informed her that actually, I both cook and sew, and that I enjoy it! And still, I was left to wonder, “Do others perceive me as being lazy and irresponsible?”
Then, of course, there is my most painful memory regarding this subject, which just happened to take place on my very first Mother’s Day. We had gone out to lunch with Trent’s extended family. Camden, who was not yet six months old at the time, decided he needed a nap as we were driving to the restaurant, so we pulled him out of the car, infant seat/carrier and all, and let him continue sleeping. Later, on our way out of the restaurant, a lady spotted us and decided to voice her disapproval loudly to the woman sitting next to her. “Why do mothers these days stick their babies in those things?!” she said. “Why doesn’t she just hold him? When our children were small, we used to hold them.” Yeah. Happy Mother’s Day. I don’t suppose she would have appreciated the alternative, though, which would have been to wake Camden up and take him, fussing and crying and protesting, into a noisy restaurant. And yet again, I was left to wonder, “Am I a bad mother?”
I realize there is an issue with the generational gap. None of us are perfect. I’ve seen young people be rude to elderly people, and I’ve seen elderly people be young people. But why?
I have tried to let these kind of things “roll off,” but it’s hard to hear a message repeated over and over and over and not pay attention to it. I’m tired of feeling emotionally abused and prejudged and hated because I am a member of “the younger generation.” And I have come to the conclusion that it is just like any other form of prejudice: It is destructive and it is unfair to people as individuals. I may not be a victim of hate crimes in a physical way, like many ancient forms of prejudice have given way to, but experiences like this are damaging nonetheless. And it has begun to affect me. I find myself acting differently. I avert my eyes from people when I usually would smile at them. I duck my head and am ashamed of bringing out my iPhone in the supermarket because I worry that the people around me think I’m texting or ignoring my child, even though I’m just pulling up my shopping list. It’s wrong. I don’t like it. It’s making a difference in my life.
So, I’m just trying to make sense of this. I’m tired of carrying it around with me and not understanding it. I’m hoping that this message will reach a few fellow members of the human race who will be able to help me piece together what is going on, or maybe just to get out the message: Please don’t hate me and prejudge me just because I am a member of the “younger generation.” I’m doing my best to be a good mother, a good person, and worthwhile member of society.