Staying Put

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When I was in my late teens, I couldn’t wait to set out on my own.  I [erroneously] believed that I would “find” myself “out there.”  This idea seemed to prevail with “my” generation.   A large number of us ended up in college, totally clueless as to how to approach the next chapter in our lives.  In fact, probably to cover our feelings of insecurity, we developed an attitude towards those of our classmates who seemed to have an idea of where they wanted to go.

Apparently, according to a recent article in AARP, this trend towards setting out on one’s own was extremely common among boomers.  Furthermore, that trend has undergone a shift in the opposite direction with youths wishing to remain in their family home.  According to the AARP article, boomers have developed closer relations with their children than their parents had with them.

I can relate to this.  In my family, my parents lived in their world and we lived in ours.  Sometimes the paths crossed, usually around a behavioral infraction on our part.  Other areas where our paths crossed: attending church together, Sunday meals, “hanging out” together on a Sunday afternoon.  When we were younger, our father played with us on those Sunday afternoons.  As we got older, the hanging out took more of an “us sitting with our parents as ‘they’ relaxed waiting until we could excuse ourselves to go play with our friends.”  Did I ever consider speaking to either of my parents about my personal questions, fears, ideas, inspirations?  No.  Now I cannot speak for all my siblings.  My older sister once opined that she looked at our mother as her best friend.  So I have to assume that she felt totally comfortable sharing everything with my mother.  This, however, did not seem to have an effect on her decision to move out and onward.  In fact, we were expected to do so.

Not so children of boomers.  They enjoy being home, have no strong desire to move far away, feel a connection with their parents.  We always talk about the pendulum swinging one way and then swinging in the opposite direction.  This may be what is reflected, although, according to the article, boomers seem to have made more of an effort to interact with their children, in some extreme cases, treating them as equals or even their superiors.  And, of course, now all the pundits are wondering whether this trend of staying at home is “healthy.”

Since the beginning of the human race, families mostly remained together.  Of course, the restlessness of seeking the new does seem to be an inherent quality in human beings and thus there are many examples of individuals setting out.  Much of the mobility inherent in the definition of our society most probably has to do with the fact that we were the “New World”, a world yet to be fully explored.  It was because the United States was “the new world” which needed to be explored and “tamed” that this trend to separate out and move away was such a dominant feature of the American profile.  Now that our identity is starting to congeal, the restlessness of seeking something different seems to have tapered off.  Although many also look at the economy as a source of this trend.  Oh, and then there is technology in the form of television and computers…..where one can travel a thousand miles away and never leave the living room.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013