To my dear future chubby-cheeks:
Lately, your future mother has been hearing a lot of noise about how her narcissistic generation needs to get over feeling like we’re anything special.
You see, a few years before you were born, I attended a Citizens League discussion titled “The Looming Intergenerational War”. The purpose of the dialogue: can entitled, liberal Millennials, ignored and indifferent GenXers, and social security-hogging Boomers sit in the same room without feeling the need to rip into each other for perceived affronts to their dignity and lifestyle? (Am I perhaps being hyperbolic, you ask? Pffft. As my child you should realize that I am never sarcastic. Ever.)
Say nothing about the conflict in Afghanistan: as I write this letter to you, my Millennial comrades and I are currently locked in a brutal socioeconomic fight to the death with our Boomer parents and even our GenXer older cousins. Why, you ask? Mainly because many major news outlets, politicians, and the Twitterverse have trumpeted in no uncertain terms that we are, in fact, at war. How can I possibly look at your grandparents now – my sworn enemies – without being moved to openly weep at the cruel fate that has placed us at opposite ends of the cultural battle field?
Future baby, here is the supposed plight of my Perez-loving soldiers in arms: our older coworkers call us lazy because we refuse to put in our time at the bottom of the employee food chain – after all, we’ve been so used to receiving trophies and accolades for our mediocre work that we now scoff at positions we deem “below us”. They say we whine incessantly (and unjustifiably) about Boomers leaving us to inherit a bleak economic future, even as we’re simultaneously instructed to get our s#!t together because Lord knows we won’t have social security to fall back on when we contemplate retirement. (Someday you and I will have an enlightening conversation about what that s-word means. Today is not that day.) We are looked down upon for being coddled, for having everything from grades to smartphones that we don’t deserve, for being unmotivated. Sometimes, we aren’t even called Millennials or Generation Y – our hugely inflated egos are more likely characterized by the moniker Generation Me.
Okay…seriously though, baby. I want you to know that, regardless of our age and generation – Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, what have you – very few of us today actually believe this crap.
Grandma and grandpa are not perfect (despite what they might tell you), but both your uncle and I will strongly assert that they brought us up in the best and most loving way they knew how. If my mom and dad have ever told me I’m good at something, it’s because I legitimately am. Listen baby, your momma is fully aware that she’s a hot mess when it comes to math and science. My pride has been kicked down a notch on more than one occasion regarding my (lack of) athletic and artistic abilities. So why is it such a complete and utter travesty that I’ve ever been encouraged for being good at something, like possessing a knack for written communication, or having talent with a musical instrument, or being able to think critically and objectively?
What’s more, some of the best praise I have ever received has come to me in the form of criticism. A story (and you’ll probably hear this one often, baby, so listen up): when I was a freshman in college, I pulled an all-nighter to write a large research paper for one class and a one-page literary response for another. Both were deplorable examples of scholarly work. However, when I received a check-minus on the one-page response (the symbolic equivalent of “at least you strung some letters together on a piece of paper…”), I was indignant and felt I had been misunderstood. I went to my professor’s office to plead my case and prove that my argument was clearly articulated and supported by textual evidence. He replied, “No, it wasn’t. You were wrong. I know what you’re capable of producing, and I will always expect more of you.” I thank God for that professor, and for the lasting impact he’s had on my self-esteem, because he was right: I can do better. Remember this, baby: regardless of your strengths, you should never assume you have learned all you could learn. We can all, always, do better.
Generational war is largely a myth, child of mine. Your generation will struggle to find its place in the world when you grow up, just as my generation is currently working to build a successful future that we can claim as our own. Rest assured that your grandparent’s generation, and generations of ancestors before them, has done the same. History can give us context for our decisions, but the only person responsible for your life is you.
Someday, baby, you will grow up and leave me. I can’t promise I’ll be the coolest mom in the world, and I can’t promise I’ll always do everything right by you, but I swear that I’ll raise you the best way I know how, just like your grandparents raised me. I will help you to recognize and to grow your talents, because without them, you won’t know how to establish your place in this huge world. And I will encourage you to surround yourself with people who are more talented in other ways than you, and who will give it to you straight when you need a slice of humble pie. You are not perfect, baby, and while you should be bold in the knowledge of your strengths, you must never forget to be vulnerable and open in your weaknesses.
And most of all, baby, I vow that you will always know that you’re special…because to me, you already are.
*Nope, I’m not currently pregnant. Hope we’re all on the same hypothetical page here.