This is the dawning of the age of entitlement

I was sad when I realized that I missed the Generation X cutoff.   These were the kids born in the "baby bust", a period post-baby boomer ranging from 1961 to the latest 1981.  (Okay, so I BARELY missed it.)  While I wasn't sad because I didn't get lumped into this stereotype:

The media played its part in promoting the Generation X stereotype by portraying them as grunge-listening, Starbucks-drinking, flannel-donning slackers who were quietly revolting against their overachieving, conservative Baby Boomer parents or older siblings. While the term Generation X has been used by a more punk faction of the generation, it has also labeled a group of musicians and actors represented by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Janeane Garafolo of the movie Reality Bites. While Gen-Xers probably feel passionate about some things, in general they have been portrayed as apathetic, disaffected twentysomethings with no course in life. -From wisegeek.com

I was sad because Gen X-er just sounds so much cooler than Gen Y-er.  The Gen Y-er's are known by these things:

This particular group has been called rude, retributive, and prone to childhood obesity and drug and alcohol abuse.   They are the first group to come to age just as the Internet began to completely flower. They are thus familiar, usually from childhood, with not only Internet surfing, but also all the gadgets that have come along with it. Cellphones, electronic organizers, cable radio, hundreds of television stations, and many more things folks born before this period would consider novelties are just the basic staples of existence for a Generation Y kid or young adult. From wisegeek.com

It just keeps getting...better?  

I'm an observer.  I'm one of those weirdos who is absolutely content to sit on the boardwalk and watch people.  Who cares about the ocean?  It's just who I am.  I watch people (in as non-scary a way as possible, I hope).

Anyway, these generational labels get me thinking about what my kids' generation will be called.  Based on my observations, they're on the fast track to becoming Generation Entitlement or maybe Generation Gimme It NOW.  

It's something that has come up several times in conversation lately, with various unrelated people.  (Maybe it's because I'm the common denominator and I bring it up, but whatever.)  And I think most people, especially parents, will agree.  For some reason children these days seem to think they are entitled to everything from the very little to the grandiose. 

Here's a little example.  We have several tubs of sidewalk chalk in our garage for the kids and the neighborhood hooligans to play with.  They run through the stuff like it's going out of style.  Part of the reason is because they just use it that much, but part of it is because they'll let a piece roll into the grass and leave it there only for it to be run over by the mower.  Or they'll let it roll under the holly bush and leave it there for an eternity.  Or they'll throw it at each other when they get bored with actually using it as chalk and it will bust into smithereens when it hits the sidewalk.  I commented to one of the neighborhood hooligans one day as I watched a brand new stick of chalk roll off the driveway into the grass that he needed to go get it.  He retorted with a "why", and even though I don't owe him an explanation, I told him that it would get run over with the lawnmower and if it kept happening eventually we'd run out of chalk.  His reply, "Can't you just buy more?"  

That's when I wanted to pick him up by the sleeve and throw him off a cliff, but, alas, there are no cliffs available in our neighborhood.

The point is not about the chalk.  It's about the expectation.  That child has no appreciation for the fact that he comes over and uses the chalk.  He takes for granted that when that when the garage door opens, there will be tubs of chalk available.  If for some reason, some day, he found the tubs empty, I'd be willing to bet 100 pieces of brand new sidewalk chalk, he'd probably complain about it.

My kids do it too.  I don't know where we've gone wrong, or if it's just a product of being born in Generation Entitlement.  If Generation Y considers electronic luxuries to be daily staples, what does this mean for Generation E?  Yikes.  I think part of the problem is that we have made life instantaneous.  That's the "now" part of Generation Gimme It NOW.  The "Gimme It" part is our parents fault.  (Sorry to do that Mom and Dad, I am happy to exclude you from most of your peers, as I don't think you are guilty of what I'm about to describe.)

As children of the Boomers, our parents generation overcompensated with their kids for what they lacked in their childhoods.  They made their parenting lives about providing their kids (us) with opportunities they missed out on because their parents weren't able to or chose not to (because it was frivolity) provide them.  We don't know differently now.  We run from baseball practice to dance to school to church with our agendas in hand, hoping we get there on time.  Now, our children call us up on their very own cell phones to say they forgot their cleats or homework and expect us to drop what we're doing and bring the stuff to them.

Apparently the school of hard knocks closed its doors a long time ago.  

I read a quote one time that went something like this:

We make life harder for our children, by trying to make their lives easier. 

And now they believe they are entitled to unlimited sidewalk chalk, delivery of items *they* forgot, dinner at a restaurant instead of a homecooked meal, a six-figure job straight out of college, healthcare, whatever.  We did this.  Our parents helped.

Now for the $64,000 (series of) question(s) - How do we undo this?  How to we make them appreciate what they have, the opportunities that are practically in their lap?

My hope rests in you, my fellow parents.  Let's help our children to realize how great they have it, not to take it for granted, and to reach their potential which will remain untapped in the present culture unless we show them.  We can re-brand Generation Entitlement.  I have hope!


Emily said...

you are so very insightful! I really enjoyed reading that!
Emily Talmadge :)

amy said...

It was a Boomer who came up with those definitions. And do you know why? Because the Boomers are all about themselves, 100% of the time. They're the coolest generation EVER, just ask them. In case you're wondering, my sister and I refer to that entire generation as the MFBBs.

I personally am an X-er, and I think it bears noting that the character in Reality Bites is fictional, and in truth our generation has some pretty passionate movers and shakers. (Interestingly, like him or hate him, our current president is an x-er)

Personal rant aside, I totally agree about Gen E. And I have no answer. =P

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