3 Ways I Failed As A Gen-Z Parent
To the best of my knowledge none of my Generation-Z offspring, born 1998, 1999 and 2003 have ever produced a Vine, Twitch or Instagram video of family, friends or complete stranger’s dog pooping, wrapping someone in a plastic bag and sucking out the air with a vacuum or snorted a condom. And, they definitely did not make millions of dollars doing such foolish antics. Where is Skywalker when we need him to Jedi mind-trick an entire generation of youth out of stupidity?
My First Failure
I think that my failure began when each of my children came me to one day and said, “Dad, buy me an iPhone”. It wasn’t just buy me a phone so I can reach you for a ride after school, or buy me a phone so I can call Suzy and talk about tonight’s homework. It was specific. It couldn’t be a flip phone or an SMS phone with one of those cool slide-out keyboards. In fact I’m not sure any of them knew what SMS actually meant at the their age (10). But, that was okay because I didn’t know what SnapChat was at the time either. It just had to take photos and videos and have “Internet” to access their facebook, which they didn’t (and according to facebook TOA age rule couldn’t) have, but outsmarted by every third-grader by using a fake birth date.
I won’t bore you with the “when I was a kid” tales, but I really did walk 2 miles in the snow — once — and remember the day the family gathered around a tape recorder to record our first answering machine greeting. I admit, I think we even recorded a jingle for Christmas. It was a time when parents didn’t fear school-yard shootings, or child-abductions and kicked us out of the house at sunrise saying, “have fun stormin’ the castle boys”. They only called every mother in town if you weren’t home in time for dinner. I didn’t know what a video game was until I was 8 years old and it was surprisingly like animated graph paper and driving a stick shift. And if you wanted to play with your friends, they actually had to ride their bike over to your house to be player 2.
My Second Failure
I taught my children how to drive an automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive, power-windowed, bluetooth-enabled vehicle. I will never forget the day my teenage daughter passed the DMV’s permit test. The first thing she did was take a selfie and post it on Instagram. The number of likes that this photo of her holding her drivers permit possessed gave her more of a sense of accomplishment (maybe even entitlement) for her then the actual permit itself. Immediately she asked how to pair her phone with the radio. Never once has she heard the grinding of the gears or the felt that clutch-fear when driving the hills of San Francisco.
Automobiles have certainly changed over years, but the basics are still mostly the same: an engine runs the car, blinkers indicate direction, headlights allow you to see in the dark and tires still need air, as well as change in air presure during season change. It’s amazing the stress and confusion that a flat-tire causes Gen-Z drivers, and more shocking are the number of youth that answer the question, How do you change a flat-tire? with, “Call Triple A”.
I won’t bore you with the “when I was a kid” tales, but I wasn’t one of those kids who had the privelge to drive a current year, leased Toyota Corola with a personalized license plate, and on occassion, I even got my hands greasy just to save $20 on an oil change. I also had to sacrifice a few weekends with a friend’s dad to learn how to replace front brakes because the priveledge of having a car was being able to afford to have one in the first place and at least unserstand it’s basic mechanical workings. Plus, I have fond memories as a child digging small holes in the backyard and disposing of the motor-oil we just changed; just like my dad and his dad and so on. Driving and owning a car was a right-of-passage earned through responsibility and hard-work, not something awarded to you for turning 16 or completing a quest.
My Third Failure
I cleaned my children’s bedroom for them; most of the time. This is becuase I learned quickly as a parent that picking your fight was imperative to preserving your sanity. However, my children learned early, through Nickelodeon and Disney role-models about how to neogiate a pick-up-your-room-stand-off wisely.
They could sit in a pile of unfolded clothes, which they had furiously tossed out of the top drawer the same morning, for the entire day playing with toys buried under such mess, or sit on them like a bean-bag playing Wii Mario Kart. And, when asked to find X they would somehow know exactly where to reach into the pile and pull it out of their bedroom land-fill like a magician revealing a bunny rabbit. Complete with air-sparkles and fireworks.
I won’t bore you with the “when I was a kid” tales, but every morning I had to make sure my bed was made (and room picked up) or I wasn’t allowed to go outside and play. To add to my torture, my parents would let my friends play in our big, open back yard so I could hear them. Disappearing into an alternate digital universe wasn’t even an option. Only my rich friends had TVs and Atari’s in their bedrooms. So, you bet I got my bed made right the first time and learned new tricks to hide toys under the bed. Although, as much as I disliked doing it and vocalized my opinion of being slave-labor, it shaped me into the tiddy adult I am today.
My Advice for Today’s Parents
Lead by Example. Play Outside. Read a book. Pop the hood on your car and show them what makes the wheels go round. Buy a dog and make them pick up the poop. Disconnect from technology. Eat dinner with them (at home). Don’t use Dora The Explorer or Sponge Bob as your baby sitter. Lastly, teach them that being social and Social Media are two very different things.
You’re kids will thank you …eventually… when they are 34 and have finally grown up, moved out and realized dishes don’t wash themselves and food doesn’t magically appear in the refridgerator.