Kids Today

another in a series of re-posted blogs, because you haven’t seen them. this one is from about 3 1/2 years ago…

As I drive to work each morning from 6:30 to 8, I pass various residential settings. Along Atlantic County Road 575 there is a pair of trailer parks with half a dozen kids standing curbside, if there is a curb, as the school bus approaches. A similar group of children, a range of ages, stands in the driveway of an inexpensive motel on state highway 322, likely a location at which the state sets up as low-income housing during the non-summer season. Before I get to those places, I pass two suburban developments and a stretch of farmland.

First come the McMansions of the developments with once-clever outdoorsy names like “Deer Run,” “Dillon’s Creek,”and “Waterstone.” Announced by gold-lettered signs, the entrances of those subdivisions are clogged with SUV’s and crossovers, engines idling and spitting a stream of carbon monoxide into the precious atmosphere. Inside sit silent parents listening to an AM news station as the children are plugged into their Ipods and listen to collections of sounds that they believe are actually songs. September to June, regardless of downpour or wondrous and warm sunrise, these children are sheltered both physically and emotionally by their loyal parents until the bus comes rolling along.

A mile down the road is a gravel path that leads to a farmhouse partially hidden by the early growth of next year’s “live and cut Christmas trees.” Each morning, six or seven high-school kids stand where the rocks meet the road and watch for the same school bus that had been waiting for the other kids to crawl out of Mom or Dad’s SUV. The farm kids are different. They’re not plugged into iPods, and their parents aren’t driving back up to the house with the kids’ empty coffee cups. The farm kids talk. They interact. They play “catch” with hacky sacks. When it rains, they get wet. When it’s cold, they bundle up. When there’s something beautiful on the horizon, they see it.

They also see life. They see work, and they deal with problems, maybe feeling the residual, “trickle-down effects” of a poor economy while the kids up the road will still get Mom’s credit card and BMW to drive to the mall at will. The farm kids might get to college, and if they do, they’ll hustle out of class to get to their part-time jobs, the same jobs they have now in high school. They’ll learn life skills like how to please the boss, be on time, and get along with co-workers whom they don’t like. The kids up the road will only go into a workplace if it’s the one their parents own. They’ll deal with college as more of a social opportunity and annoyance than an education. They’ll step into jobs, careers really, but they won’t have the drive that will have developed in the farm kids who actually worked hard but were never actually certain that they would get there.

I don’t know with whom I have an issue to take up. It’s hard to blame the McMansion kids because they don’t set the conditions, not at first anyway. They’re a product of their environment, and they’re what they have been taught and raised to be. One of the very few times my brother, a staunch Republican, has ever agreed with me was when I said, “I don’t want to hear parents complain that ‘kids are different these days.’ Kids are what we have allowed them to become. They are born no different than we were, but they’re raised much differently than we were.” Should I take issue with the parents who spend too much coddling time instead of quality time? On Friday night they leave a handful of $20’s on the kitchen table with a note that says “See you Monday,” then after work they head for the shore house or Atlantic City condo while the kids are home with the house to themselves all weekend. The parents are the ones who give the teenagers the new Lexus for Christmas their senior year and send them to the Caribbean after graduation, ruining a lifetime of expectation and entitlement.

Or maybe my issue is with myself.  Have you ever seen those awful Lexus commercials at Christmas?  The ones where a bright-faced girl of about 18 or 19 finds a new luxury car with a giant red bow in the driveway?  Those commercials greatly annoy me.  This video kind of mocks those commercials.


33 thoughts on “Kids Today

  1. You bring up a difficult problem of these modern times. I believe that people incomfortable circumstances, can still educate their children to understand good values, and to enjoy working in order to achieve a goal… but it’s hard when the spirit of the times is working against you. Thanks for an interesting post.

  2. This is an interesting topic you bring up, I myself am a child (14), and I see this topic on a different level. Being as I am interested in sociology a bit, I have thought about the different outcomes of different raising techniques. It’s definitely a fact, that some children these days are not raised well.

  3. Thank you for a most interesting post. In England, we tend to have a mixture of good parenting and not so good parenting. I have seen it right across the social classes. Unfortunately, I don’t think that it is something which will change.

  4. Thanks for reposting this…good thoughts for the day. Great perspective….raising “farm kids” in a wealthy town myself. Thanks for making me feel good

  5. Excellent point…hard to say where to place full blame – however we are each responsible for our own children. I have one, adult now, and our home was always the catch-all for those friends whose parents couldn’t or wouldn’t be bothered by them. My only child was never alone, and I feel like I spent more time parenting other peoples’ kids. I felt it was important to step up and be the adult in their lives. The reward is amazing: all productive adults with wonderful values, now examples to their own children…
    If we see a void, I think we need to fill it: step up and do the best we can for the next generation.
    Difficult subject to dive into, a conversation worth having.

  6. I seem to lecture to more of the former and less of the latter on the college level. It’s frustrating to me to deal with.

  7. Where I live you never meet a poor farmer but I agree with what you say, farm kids do know the value of hard work. I’d rather have my son go to school with a bunch of farm kids than ones in the city. They are taught a different set of morals and are generally better behaved as well, at least that’s how it is where I live. But most of the problem comes down to bad parenting. If you don’t teach your kids to work for things they will end up like a McMansion kid (ha ha, cool word by the way)

  8. I’m from an affluent Chicago suburb, so we have our share of over-privileged jerks (young and old) and it’s always frustrating when children are simply terrible in public. I always cringe. When my wife and I start a family I’m going to have to try hard to make them appreciate things, even if they have it easy.
    Great blog

  9. True. But do we always know what goes on inside those McMansions? And do real parents leave their children alone all weekend? Regularly? Just to go off on their own somewhere else? Can these people be called parents?

    A teacher in France commented about some of her pupils: “Parents don’t educate children these days; they just breed them.”

    I think that our priorities are all wrong. Our children are our future. What sort of future are we creating?

    • we’re creating what’s convenient for us. we’re starting to look at things and think, “will this really affect me?” and if not, we don’t seem to care anymore. as for the mcmansions, i don’t know if that’s a term you’d hear outside of the US. it’s basically a four or five bedroom house that’s a little inflated. the “mc” is because of mcdonald’s. fast food. they seem to slap these houses up quickly because they make so many of them. i live in one, and it was a great waste of money. i thought it would be good for me and my kids, but they’re really not here enough. a house half this size would have been great.

      • Australia’s a long way away but we have heard of McMansions. USA culture, or lack thereof, depending on your definition of “culture”, has invaded this country too.

        Houses here seem to be getting bigger and bigger. Mine was built in the early 90s so, although it has three bedrooms, they are very small and I would have preferred fewer rooms with more space per room. However, having been close to homeless in the past, I’m grateful to own this house, even though it is on Crown Land, which means that I don’t own the land on which it stands. The only piece of land that I own is in Scottish Highlands.

  10. Our kids hunt–our oldest son has been taking himself out into the woods alone since he was eleven. One day, he was so still, connected, and silent that a bird landed on his shoulder and sat awhile. I don’t think he’d take all your iPods for that experience.

  11. Its a great thought provoking write up Rich…here a few months back a 14 year old drove his fathers 5th New car fast in the basement( meant for parking ) and ended up breaking a major pipe line..parents immidiately fled the colony and came back only when they have had a good lawyer and that kid had absolutely no remorse on his face…problem with todays kids too much too soon..they take everything for granted.
    what the parents do now a days is money therapy..give a lot of cash to your kid or expensive gifts and their “part/role” is done

    • it’s a lot easier for parents to give up money than to give up time. if you give yourself, your time, you run the risk of being rejected. if you give money, it will be taken easily. thanks for reading.

  12. True conversation at work the other day:
    Me: Hey, kiddo what have you got there a Kindle?
    12 yr old: No, this a Nook, my Kindle is broken.
    Me: Wow, you have both?
    12 yr old: Sure. I keep it in the car when I don’t feel like reaching over and getting my laptop…
    Me: Anyone ever tell you that you’re spoiled and lazy?
    12 yr old: Sure, they say I’m spoiled rotten. My parents are rich AND they just got divorced so I get anything I want.
    Me: speechless

    • My sister in law once repremanded my 12 yr old daughter for doing something but said nothing to her own 12 yr old daughter who did the same thing. My daughter asked why her cousin did not get in trouble for doing the same thing. The aunt explained that the cousin was adopted. She also explained that they had to give her anything she wanted or she might want to go back to her birth mother. True story.

      • Since I don’t have kids of my own – I’m no authority but, I think that’s kinda crazy! I honestly believe if you work for something / earn something – it has more value and you will appreciate it better than having everything just GIVEN to you…

  13. A very good post!! In my country there isn’t these huge differences in income and lifestyles, but still there are quite a lot of spoilt brats raised these days.

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