Lately, I’ve seen quite a few articles on the new generation of ingrates, articles claiming that the attitudes and self-centeredness of teens these days are worse than in any generation before them. Maybe-so, but this is also true…
Dear self-centered, lazy, ungrateful teenagers,
We as parents, as a society, have failed you.
We get angry and call you spoiled when you don’t automatically understand the importance of appreciation, obligation, community, humility, and responsibility.
We now “teach” you those values by lecturing while we ourselves fail to demonstrate such virtues.
We have lacked patience, time, and willingness from the time you were young. We have taken shortcuts to “teach” you these lessons- Buying your love with gifts, an app on the iPad with a dinosaur talking about sharing, an electronic reader replacing stories and cuddles, dinners around the TV as family bonding…. We were so stressed out ourselves that we welcomed these shortcuts readily, instead of protecting you from the influx of information and isolation that just became available as you were growing up…
We gave you video games when you were five because it was easier than keeping you occupied with our interaction. Then came an iPad at seven and a all the newest gadgets from then on out. We gave you a car when you were 16 because it was easier than having to drive you places.
We don’t listen to you, don’t try to see the world through your eyes, don’t remember what it was like. When YOU don’t see the world through OUR eyes, we get angry and act like something is wrong with you. When that makes YOU angry, we might gossip contemptuously about our horrible child. Or we might bring you to therapy to be “fixed.”
We have prioritized our own compulsion to be loved over your stability. We have been reactively explosive in front of you, divorced too willingly, had more babies with more characters who should have remained on the periphery of of your life…
We go into debt for a house that makes us think that people might admire us, buy too many clothes that make us think that we will somehow be more lovable. We tell ourselves we need to work long hours to buy all kinds of so-called necessities which are actually luxuries. And we are horrified to find out that while we are at work, you are sneaking our vodka and having sex.
We fail to disappoint you when it would be in your best interest to do-so, because we are so starved for admiration that we sometimes look for it from you. Then when you become demanding we act appalled.
When you grow to hate authority— your unknowing protests against all the moving, the new step-parents, the parents that don’t see you, the fighting, the isolation, the parents that aren’t there- we call you disrespectful before we have taken a second to acknowledge your broken heart. We don’t want to acknowledge that we should have protected you from ever having to experience those things, and it makes sense that you are angry and anxious and distrusting and on-the-edge.
We screwed you over by not having carefully chosen who our spouses would be— who would be your mothers and fathers. We told ourselves that people can change, ultimately at the expense of the next generation. We weren’t strong enough to withstand short term pain of change and were more addicted to the illusion of being loved than we were able to see reality objectively. So we behaved cowardly and you suffered the price through our fighting, our divorces, our instability.
We think we are good parents because we talk all about hard work and delaying gratification. Then we zone out on our own iPads, numb our own loneliness with alcohol and TV instead of spending an evening taking and listening.
We don’t know what is really going in in your life or how you really feel, because we have made it clear that if it is not good, we don’t want to hear it. We are afraid of being reminded of our own lack of control, limited power, and inevitable mistakes. So we get angry and defensive.
We don’t make you feel important and special and surrounded with love, so maybe a good-looking Instagram picture will tempt to do those things for you. Or maybe smoking weed with your friends will do that for you.
It was supposed to be our job to actually see you, be with you, meet your emotional needs , make tough, intentional choices, teach you lessons by our examples and through our relationships with you. When those things happen, generations flourish. It was up to us, but we failed.
We are wounded ourselves. We have tended to our wounds with reactive anger, ignorance, superficial pursuits, avoidance, numbing, denial, and retreat.
Please forgive us. Tend to your wounds with intentional, deliberate wisdom and love.
Please forgive us and please strive to give the world better than we have given you.
Collective parents and society