Wednesday, September 1, 2010
"What's wrong with kids these days?"
I'm having a hard time figuring out what to call today's post. Probably because there are a million thoughts running through my head (like last time) and I haven't actually decided what to write about yet. Does that ever happen to you? Too many thoughts to focus in on just one? It happens to me more often than I'd like.
Still no luck on the job front, though I have landed two very part time gigs and one of them actually involves cleaning! A friend of a friend from church just had a baby via C-section about two weeks ago, and she also has a 13 month old son. Needless to say, she needs some help with household chores for the next month, as well as with her oldest child since she's restricted in how much she can lift and bend over. She is also legally blind - she and her family moved into a new townhouse literally three days before she gave birth, so she hasn't yet completed learning her new home. So far I've helped her sweep, mop, clean the bathroom, and vacuum. But I've also gotten to play with her oldest son and feed him breakfast. Truly a lovely woman with two adorable boys.
My other job is helping out with an after school program working specifically with preschoolers. I know. Haven't I been trying to avoid that? Well, let's just say that it's not my ideal job, but I love working with this age and it's such a short amount of time and not in a classroom setting that it's all good.
Today, though, I think I want to address something I overheard on my way to work today. As I was waiting for the Light Rail train to take me to the after school program, I heard two ladies talking and couldn't help but over hear part of a conversation about Christmas gifts. One of them was telling a story about an expensive gift she'd gotten for a nephew who'd "always been a brat." He didn't like the particular gift she'd given him, so she told him not to expect anymore Christmas cards (which I assume also meant gifts) from her. She was disgusted and went on to say that her other brothers kids were always grateful for whatever they received. The woman she was talking to just shook her head and said, "What's wrong with kids these days?"
They didn't ask me, so I kept my mouth shut, but the beauty of this space is that I can open it and answer them anyway. :)
I don't understand this particular reaction from people, because in reference to this specific story there are plenty of examples of children from hundreds of years ago who weren't thankful for a gift they received. So what is so different about this situation that makes all kids today thankless, as the question implies? The context is different, perhaps, and people tend to have many more gadgets, possessions, and 'things,' but all of those together only illustrate how surroundings are different.
Having heard something during this story about buckskins that had been in the family for years, I put some pieces together for myself (not sure if they're correct). Did the woman telling this story gift a buckskin to this "always been a brat" nephew? Let's pretend this is the case. Part of being a good gift-giver is doing your best to give something you think the recipient will like and/or want. That can definitely be challenging sometimes, but you know, there's nothing wrong with asking if there's something that someone wants if you're a little stumped. It may not be quite as much fun, but you can be sure your recipient will be thrilled. Whereas, getting them something you would want without thinking about their interests....well, no one can really blame them if they aren't interested. Ok, so the buckskins were clearly important and of value to this lady, but they might not have been to her nephew (understandable, in my opinion. What in the world do you do with buckskins?!). Does his lack of interest in this gift really warrant a grand sweep of something being wrong with all kids these days?
Maybe this kid really is thankless and has been for a long time, but maybe he just thinks his aunt is really weird and that her gifts are a bit strange. I wouldn't blame him. But I also wouldn't lay the blame on him if has "always been" the "brat" his aunt claims he has been. In my experience, most bratty kids are the way they are because of parenting choices made by those raising them. *Please note, I said "most." There are certainly exceptions.* Kids are by and large a product of their surroundings. Manners and grace are learned qualities and different from culture to culture, society to society. Was this nephew ever taught to how to gracefully accept gifts - even those he was less excited about? Did his parents teach him to write thank you notes for gifts he received? Maybe not, and if so that's hardly his own fault. Did his parents talk about the 'crazy' gifts they always received from someone? If so, and if he heard that from a young age, it's no wonder he came across as thankless.
I'm would never call myself an etiquette snob, though I am a stickler for manners. Comments like "What's wrong with kids these days?" just irritate me because it implies superiority to all young people in the person who said it. In my experience, those who choose to make such a comment are rarely justified in their superiority.
Thank you for letting me rant just a little.