Nanny in NYC

A modern day Mary Poppins

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The "New Adults" or Michael Jackson is Not who You Should Want Your Child to Grow Up As

Did you wonder what caused me to drag out, re-read and then write about a five-year-old article about mildly pessimistic views of the current young adult generation (oh, and by "drag out" I mean pay The Atlantic Monthly Online $2.95)? Well, wonder no longer: it was a recent article from New York Magazine by Adam Sternbergh in which he details his profile of the "new adulthood". Sternbergh refers to this group as "Grups" (it's a Star Trek thing, apparently) and characterizes the typical Grup male this way:
He owns eleven pairs of sneakers, hasn’t worn anything but jeans in a year, and won’t shut up about the latest Death Cab for Cutie CD. But he is no kid. He is among the ascendant breed of grown-up who has redefined adulthood as we once knew it and killed off the generation gap.

I came across the article on the blog of an acquaintance who had luckily cued the text up to page six in which the parenting habits of Grups are discussed. She begins her commentary with this not overly optimistic statement, "I fear I may be glimpsing my future." What is it she's afraid of? The worst case scenario of Grup parenting: Conservative Children.

Overall, one of the great things Grups have going for them is their optimism about parenting.
Here’s the good news about kids: They’re defenseless. So if you want to put a Ramones T-shirt on your 2-year-old, you don’t need his permission. All you need is for someone to have the great idea to make a 2-year-old-size Ramones T-shirt. (And trust me—someone’s had that idea.) And if you want to play the Strokes for your 4-year-old son, what’s he going to do? I’ll tell you what—he’s going to learn to love the Strokes."
But their fears abound. Grups seem to understand the perverse nature of children, and that rebellion cannot be assuaged simply by trying to set oneself up as the epitome of cool.
. . . perhaps we can look forward—at least if Family Ties can be trusted—to a new generation of buttoned-down, high-strung Alex P. Keaton–type conservative teenagers. This is something the Grups have considered. When I asked Hermelin her worst fear, she laughed and said, “Our kids are going to become Republicans.”

It's true that rebellion is a pretty standard part of any American teenager's bag of tricks, but I'm disappointed in that mother for being so unimaginative in her dark fantasies. I am not frightened of an entire generation of Alex P. Keatons. I think we lived through something like that in the early 80's and we managed not to end the world (we didn't do wonderful things for the environment, our national debt, and so on and so forth, but we also didn't cause the planet to explode in a fiery mass, so it's even as far as I'm concerned). What frightens me are scenarios that perhaps boarder on paranoid, and if that's so I apologize, but hopefully you'll bear with me.

Collectively the Grups seem to want to stress to their children that they should do what feels good, but at the same time they are actively dictating to their children what should feel good, rather than giving those kids time and space to discover those things on their own. (This used to be one of the major parts of what being a kid meant, but no more, apparently!). The generation of parents before the Grups began to erode the generation gap by inhabiting every aspect of their kids lives, imposing safety rules, supervising playtime, and structuring activities. Now the Grups seem to want to take that a step further and deny that there is a difference between themselves and their children, disregarding size, of course. Isn't this the height of delusional self-centeredness? As much as I loved the picture of those Baby Bjorn adorned fathers, the mental image that came to me while reading was more like a youth-sucking vampire desperate to remain young and willing to sacrifice his child to that cause.

So, what is it that's more frightening than an army of Alex P. Keatons? A generation who never got to be children. I'm not sure what that will mean when they're all in their 30s and 40s, but Michael Jackson claims he had no childhood and he is not a stable adult, I'm sure we can all agree on that. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic, it's not like I can point to one generation and say "They did it right, that is the Gold Standard for parenting", every generation screws their kids up in some way. I just can't shake the fact that we're headed down a pretty scarry path.

Unlike B. who fears she may be glimpsing her future, I fear that we have no idea what we're getting ourselves into.


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