October 15, 2012

A very dear friend of mine truly reflects today’s cultural milieu. He’s divorced with two adult children, struggled for 20 years through the turbulent waters of a blended family, married a much younger woman (19 years younger), at 55 years of age he had a third daughter for whom he is the primary caregiver, now 8 years old, and he is an old age pensioner. Wow!

This reminds me of a popular book was written in 1964, One Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse. I think you might be able to call my friend a multi-dimensional man.

My friend informs me that the greatest joy and the most fruitful lessons he has learned about life have come in the last 8 years while raising a child or as he calls it, being a mother. He regrets not spending the same time and dedication to his two older children.

Soulfully, he recalls, “Back in the 1970s sending your children to daycare was considered radical and poor-parenting. Many of us were accused of not loving our children enough. Of course we had no choice because both of us (husband and wife) had to earn enough money to meet all of the household expenses. Day care centres gave us the opportunity to provide for our families; otherwise, we faced a lifetime of poverty and financial shortages. We also believed that daycare was superior to babysitters and television watching.”

Generation X launched the invention of daycare centres as a means to elevate early childhood learning experiences beyond the limitations of the home and at the same time respond to the increasing costs of raising a family that necessitated dual income families. It all worked quite well until the divorce and the intense rivalry that ensued with a step-mom being added to the family mix.

Being retired early at 55 with a pension provided the income to raise their child without daycares and high babysitting costs. And it allowed a parent to be in the home and on the playground watching out for her safety. He told me, “The medical and cognitive development advances we enjoy today are so vast that we can’t afford to miss or relax during the first 6 years of a child’s life. We now know that this is a period where the cognitive centre of the brain absorbs 6 times more information than at any other stage of life. Children are sponges, soaking up everything around them – how we speak, whether or not we read books, watch television, exercise, how we shop and what we buy. They are able to learn other languages very easily at this age, too. Their intelligence is turned up to high throttle. We cannot and should not waste this precious time of enhanced learning.”

“Along the way specialized Montessori and other learning centres have appeared that nurture this unrefined and undisciplined intellectual activity into focus. Very young children at 3 years of age begin to develop the basic life skills that build discipline like tying up shoes, putting away the one toy before playing with a second, putting their coats on, being respectful. Perhaps the most valuable lesson that children learn is how to listen – not an easy task for an age group under 5 years. But it works. Their vocabulary expands, their understanding of nature, crossing the street, danger and many many other valuable lessons. Of course, one of the major problems facing middle and lower income groups is how expensive these learning centres are – and how slow the government has been to support pre-school education.”

What brought this topic of discussion to life was my friend’s Thanksgiving lunch with his youngest adult child and her two children, aged 2 and 5. He recalled, “It is quite a sight to walk into my daughter’s cluttered up town house living room. It looks like a back-hoe shovel lifted up a bunch of couches and kids toys and threw them in the room.”

This sets the stage for all that follows. After he walked in with the steaming take-out bags in hand, the 60 inch television was on (apparently it is always on) and the husband was watching a football game. The two other kids were scrambling around the room unsupervised; banging their heads on table ends and finally the older boy bullied the younger one around until he cried blue murder. Then the 5 year old, who must weigh 60 lbs because of his unfortunate state of obesity, probably in a desperate plea for attention, climbed on the back of their 35 lb boxer dog. Before any serious damage was done to hurt the dog my friend screamed out, “Don’t do that! You will seriously hurt the dog.”

This elicited a response from his daughter’s husband who nonchalantly talked to the youngster in a mellow voice about how they have talked about this before and then took him to the outer room, leaving him there and returning to the football game.”

My friend then felt compelled to speak about early childhood development as he had on many previous occasions. He said to his daughter, “So, as I have mentioned to you before about reading books and how important it is for children to learn, you should take your children to the library more often. They have a number of very good programs and lots of resources that you don’t have to pay for.”

His daughter said in an aggravated voice, “I’ve told you before, Dad. You don’t know what it’s like to raise boys. They don’t read.”

My friend says this brought their Happy Thanksgiving (Kodak) moment to an end. He left soon thereafter wondering about this faction of Generation Y and what the future will bring.

Generation X Calling Generation Y - Come In Please - Part 1

Generation X Calling Generation Y - Come In Please - Part 2

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