There’s the news you read in the paper and there’s the news we make with the lives we lead. Never has the gap been wider for me, the first lower than I can remember, the second higher than it has ever been. Which one do you pay attention to?
The latest cause for my optimism that the world and human relations are evolving comes from the three-generation family retreat I mentioned last blog. At the top are myself and my peers, unbelievably in our 60’s and even 70’s and the next level down are our “kids,” ranging from 22 to 37 years old. And then 3-year old Zadie and two babies in bellies. At the end of our three days together, while we were waiting for the last person to join the group photo, I couldn’t resist preaching to the gathered assembly. It went something like this:
“I always say at school that we want to raise the kind of kids we want to hang out with as adults. The same for parenting. And you “kids” are just great people to hang out with— smart, funny, caring, helpful, interesting. I’m so impressed that you’re willing to take a few days to hang out with us geezers. So I want to praise all of us parents for doing a good job of raising you and praise all of you for growing into such fine human beings. (And here my daughter Talia chimed in and thanked us for being such interesting and fun people to hang out with. Yeah!).”
When I was coming of age, the generation gap loomed wide indeed. It was probably the last thing on my parents’ mind for them and their friends to “hang out” with me and my friends. And certainly the last thing on my mind! But had it been possible, how great would that have felt? To feel embraced by a community of a multitude of ages that could more or less speak the same language and share the same values.
But back then, at least in my situation, it would have been impossible to talk about race or justice or money or music or religion without uncomfortable silences or heated arguments. It would have been hard to cook together and agree on what good food was. We certainly never would have taken vigorous hikes or bike rides. Back in those days, parents were parents and kids were kids and there was no expectation that the two worlds meet beyond the traditional family gatherings. Now in the era of parents as “friends” to their kids, the expectations have changed. And on the positive side, it did feel in our few days together that every conversation was rich and textured, the young and old alike hiked vigorously, that humor was everywhere and yes, there are certainly different experiences my kids have had that create a small generation gap, but it’s a small fissure, not a giant chasm.
And I, for one, am grateful for that.