Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap

Ever find yourself scratching your head over the kids these days?

Quick quiz:

Have you ever heard your kid refer to the figures in Monopoly as “icons” instead of “tokens”?

Have you ever been meandering through a thrift store to hear your child exclaim: “Mom, look at the size of that CD!” while they are pointing at a vintage LP collection?

Have you ever been ice skating and heard one of your favorite songs while growing up, only to have your enjoyment interrupted by some teenager saying, “Hey, an oldie goldie song!”?

Have you ever said, “When I was a kid….”?

If you answered any or all of them with a resounding “Yes”, then you have already experienced the generation gap.

Ah, the good ol’ days! Why is it, that when we look back on when we grew up, nostalgia wipes out all the negativity we felt at the time? Maybe it is because as teenagers, we were raving lunatics with out-of-control hormones, and everything was dramatic, big, and life-changing. As we got older we became more emotionally stable and have more perspective and logic.

More often than I would like to admit, I find myself saying to my kids: “Well, when I was your age….” Fill in the blank with any number of assertions of idyllic and misremembered childhood days. For example, before we were given a Wii U, we had one computer and a laptop in the house. The laptop was always off limits, and the computer time was meted out according to age and availability. One of my children complained one day as to the state of the affairs, as far as electronics go. I went full fledged, “When I was a kid, we played outside!”

“Mom, but it’s hailing!”

“Never stopped us! It builds character.”

Okay, maybe it did stop us, but we played board games or hung out. We did have an Atari, which at the time was cutting edge gaming (I totally just dated myself!). But we didn’t live by it. Yes, we enjoyed a good round of Yars’ Revenge or Asteroids, but mostly we had face to face time with our friends. These days a face to face encounter is a 10 second Snapchat that isn’t even saved for later reference. This can be an issue in our area, where the internet is flakey at best. I’ve had conversations with my kids at college that went something like this:

“What r u talking bout?”

“What? When?”

“A few minutes ago.”

“Don’t remember.”

How’s that for a meaningful conversation?

Of course, the internet wasn’t even a commodity back in the good ol’ days, either. We had T.V.’s where we had to get up and change the channel, phones attached the wall, and a Betamax tape player. When I was a teenager my parents gave me a stereo that had the record player, two cassette players, and an 8-track! (You get points if you know what a Betamax player was, and bonus points if you know what an 8-track player was).

Technology isn’t the only change over the last generation. There are philosophies of social conduct and linguistic interpretation that have altered over the last few decades. One such example was brought to my attention recently when my 8 year old was reading his Bible. He came to me and posed the following question:

“Mom, why are there random smiley faces all over in my Bible?”

I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about so I asked him to show me. He did.

Mark 6:12 “And King Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad :) ….”

Very funny. So, instead of the current generation seeing the colon and end parenthesis as the earmark of the ending of a literary aside, they now see smiley faces at random intervals. I guess it could be worse. When I was growing up the best known symbol was the one featured on the bumper sticker that said, “Honk if you want to see my finger”.

A strange shift in philosophy was brought to my attention when I was chatting with one of my college-aged daughters at dinner. I had just finished one of those “when I was your age” statements regarding face to face conversation. “Not only did we talk face to face, but we looked each other in the eye out of respect and to show we were listening!” My daughter told me that in her Social Studies class they did a little experiment. She had to stare unblinkingly into someone’s eyes while they were conversing with her. My husband and I looked at each other both wondering what the big deal was, and why that would be an experiment? Our daughter explained and it was obvious that the intent of the whole project flew right over our speckled gray heads; that not looking away periodically made others uncomfortable because it was a breach of privacy.

A what? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. According to what I just heard, young people today consider it a breach of privacy if you don’t break eye contact and look the other way every so often when talking to them. Shifty eyes have replaced what my generation learned as polite social manners. Personally, if someone doesn’t look me in the eye when I’m talking to them, I find that offensive, or even suspicious; I wonder if I’m about to be hit by a truck, or a thief running away from the police after stealing a poor old lady’s purse.

I have to wonder what is next? Will it be socially unacceptable to actually talk face to face at some point? Actually, in some ways, it already is. Witness to that would be all the social hook-ups on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat- just to name a few. Back in the good ol’ days we spoke in person to each other so that we could rightfully read voice inflection and body language. I have to wonder how many statements are misinterpreted because two of the key elements we use to communicate to each other are largely absent from our culture.

Yes, there is a generation gap. There always has been no matter which generation you are in. However, I think that if both sides of the gap strive towards better understanding, it can be bridged in a way that benefits all.

Cover Image Credit: Brage Neslein Korsnes

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A Letter To The Grandpas Who Left Far Too Soon

The thoughts of a girl who lost both of her grandpas too early.

Dear Grandpa,

As I get older, my memories are starting to fade. I try to cling to every last bit of memory that I have of you. There are certain memories that have stuck well in my brain, and I probably will never forget them, at least I hope I don't. I remember your smile and your laugh. I can still remember how your voice sounded. I never want to forget that. I catch myself closing my eyes to try to remember it, playing your voice over and over in my head so that I can ingrain it in my memory.

I always thought you were invincible, incapable of leaving me. You were so young, and it caught us all by surprise. You were supposed to grow old, die of old age. You were not supposed to be taken away so soon. You were supposed to see me graduate high school and college, get married to the love my life, be there when my kids are born, and never ever leave.

My heart was broken when I heard the news. I don't think I had experienced a pain to that level in my entire life. At first, I was in denial, numb to the thought that you were gone. It wasn't until Thanksgiving, then Christmas, that I realized you weren't coming back. Holidays are not the same anymore. In fact, I almost dread them. They don't have that happy cheer in the air like they did when you were alive. There is a sadness that hangs in the air because we are all thinking silently how we wished you were there. I hope when I am older and have kids that some of that holiday spirit comes back.

You know what broke my heart the most though? It was seeing your child, my parent, cry uncontrollably. I watched them lose their dad, and I saw the pain that it caused. It scared me, Grandpa, because I don't ever want to lose them like how they lost you. I can't imagine a day without my mom or dad. I still see the pain that it causes and how it doesn't go away. There are good days and there are bad days. I always get upset when I see how close people are to their grandparents and that they get to see them all the time. I hope they realize how lucky they are and that they never take it for granted. I wish I could have seen you more so that I could have more memories to remember you by.

I know though that you are watching over me. That is where I find comfort in the loss. I know that one day I will get to see you again, and I can't wait for it. I hope I have made you proud. I hope that all that I have accomplished and will accomplish makes you smile from ear to ear. I hope that the person I marry is someone you would approve of. And I hope that my kids get more time with their grandpa than I did because the amount I got wasn't fair.

I want to say thank you for raising your child to be the best parent ever because they will one day be the best grandparent ever. Just like you.

Cover Image Credit: Katelyn McKinney

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How My People Pleasing Turned Toxic

My need to please the people around me created a toxic friendship environment.

Throughout my 20 years of life, I’ve always tried to please the people around me. Now people pleasing is not a bad quality to have. Always making sure that you are caring for your friends, family, and even strangers, but people pleasing can also turn out to be one of your biggest enemies and your worst nightmare.

Trying to balance my everyday life, I would always put myself and my well-being on the back burner. Before I could even begin to worry about myself, I had to make sure that I was pleasing those around me. A seemingly simple task that could easily turn into a whirlwind of emotions.

I’ve always struggled with two consistent factors in my life: friendships and myself. When it comes to myself, there has always been a lack of self-attention and I tend to let others “run me over.” Then when it comes to friends, I quite often find myself taking people pleasing to a whole new level. At one point in my life, I started to do things that were against my values, ended up dropping my standards, began to act in ways that were opposite of my personality, and became almost petrified to share my own thoughts and opinions with some people I called my “friend.” All due to the sole purpose of wanting to please my friend and I would do anything to fit THEIR mold.

Friendship is all about reciprocity, you give some, you take some. My need to please people quickly fell into a trap in this particular friendship that I couldn’t get out of. I gave, and gave, and gave some more. And she took, and took, and took some more. Then started to take parts of myself that I wasn’t even giving: my confidence, my trust, my personality, my style and my thoughts. She took ME and I wasn’t receiving any of myself back.

The definition of friendship is the mutual trust and support between two people. Friends are the people that YOU chose to put in your life, the people that you are supposed to share the same values with, the people that you laugh with, the people that you cry with, the people that are supposed to be there for you through the thick and the thin, the people that are honest when no one else is, the people that are supposed to lift you up to make you feel better, and the people that will always be your number one cheerleader.

My once confident self, broke down to become a peasant that followed the ringleader’s every move and complied with every request. Always putting the ringleader before myself and sometimes even driving myself in harm’s way to protect the ringleader. Countless actions that I tolerated that deserved the words “I’m sorry”, but not once were those two simple words ever spoken. I continued to put the ringleader before myself just to please her so I could “fit in”. I continued to get hurt. I continued to be bossed around. I continued to hide my own opinions. I was putting my friend, the ringleader, before myself, but what I didn’t realize is that she wasn’t even being a friend to me.

I thought our values were the same, but I had changed mine to fit hers. I thought that she was there for me through thick and thin, but she was only there for me when it was convenient for her. I thought that she was always honest with me, but her web of lies told a different story. I thought she lifted me up, but really she always brought me down. I thought she was my number one cheerleader, but she was actually just cheering on herself. I thought she was always there to laugh with and cry with, but she actually only made me cry.

I became terrified of her and not pleasing her. I was so scared of her to the point that I would wouldn’t confront her about something that I knew was morally correct because she had a different opinion on the situation. I would be in tears just thinking about confronting her and I wouldn’t challenge her because she would turn every situation around that was her fault, to somehow being my fault. I stopped doing things that I loved to do because she didn’t like to do those things. I completely stopped hanging out with certain people because she didn’t like them, so I thought that I shouldn’t either. I would never spend too much time away from her because I knew that she would get mad, and I never wanted her to be mad at me. I stopped sharing my accomplishments with her because if she didn’t receive the same accomplishment then she would be mad at me.

No one should ever be afraid of their friends. I had been put in a shadow from the start and had never realized it. I had been blinded and manipulated to go against my own values and thoughts. I had been lied to and lies were told about me to others by my so-called “friend”. I had been hurt without even knowing it and had lost my confidence and so many other parts of myself along the way. When I finally realized what was going on, I knew that I needed to stop worrying about pleasing people and take a step back and look at who I had become.

I had lost little qualities about myself along the way that I wanted back. I wanted my voice back and I didn’t want to be a “follower” to a leader, that was really no leader at all. A leader, just like a friend, is one who is honest and accountable for their actions, who is empathetic to your feelings, and who is an inspiration to those around them. None of those qualities were being expressed to me and it was time for a change.

After putting my big girl pants on and gaining back some of my old confidence, I put an end to the reign of a toxic friendship and a weight was lifted off of me that I didn’t even know was there. I am happier and more confident than I have been in a long time. I’m no longer afraid to share my opinion or be who I truly am.

Everyone deserves to be happy and no one ever needs someone in their life to bring them down. I put my people pleasing as a top priority and forgot about myself along the way. I will continue to try and please those around me, especially, my friends because they are important people in my life that encourage me to be the best that I can be, push me to accomplish my goals, lend a helping hand, and take care of me when I can’t even see I even need taking care of. However, I will never again jeopardize myself and my values for someone who uses me as a pawn in their game.

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