Working in the field of education, I am constantly having discussions with not only teenagers but also the new, younger teachers who are considered millennials. I am 46 years of age and don’t consider myself “old” in the least, but I am stunned how someone, maybe 20 years younger than I am, actually thinks . . . most of the time. Here are few things in a conversation that leaves the jaw of a millennial hanging open:
- My bedroom at home was not a place of recreation. There was no gaming system; for that matter, there was no television in my room. What?! Yes, it was in the living room . . . the only television in the house, and it had five channels (if the antenna was just right). To add to the horror, all stations turned off at 10 PM with the playing of the national anthem.
- In the summer and other holiday breaks, I stayed outside all day with my friends. I came in at lunch for Ravioli and Kool-aide; then it was right back outside. I was to come home when the street lights came on. If a backyard football game was going long, a “runner” was sent to other friends’ house to ask if it was okay to stay a little longer.
- As a child and pre-teen, any adult at any time could discipline me and . . . wait for it . . . spank me. Then the disciplinary action was reported to my parents and the spanking was repeated for good measure. No, my parents did not ask my side of the story. They actually took the word of the other adult. As a teenager? Well, by then I knew better.
- I was required (still am) to say “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” to any adult. If I didn’t understand what was said to me, I replied with “ma’am?” or “sir?” and never, ever, ever did I call an adult by his/her first name. Also, if adults were talking, I was never to interrupt.
- Most of the time, unless I was seriously injured, I was told to suck it up and keep playing. My parents loved me dearly (no doubt), but I was raised to actually ignore pain and be tough. Whining was NOT allowed. I had my share of broken bones and stitches (tree house, “sword” fights, jumping bikes over ditches, etc.), but they were treated and life moved on. I did not carry a note to school, stating that I could not participate in things.
- On Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesdays, I could be found at church. It was not optional. My father prayed over every meal in our house, and I was expected to do the same when away from home. My parents prayed together and were not ashamed of it.
- As a child and pre-teen, I did not order my food at a restaurant (eating out was very rare indeed). My mother ordered first, while my dad gave me and my sister our two items from which we could choose; then he ordered for us with his own order. It was a normal. We were just ecstatic to be eating out.
- Speaking of eating, meals at home were at the kitchen table. Of course, the television was not on and there was no such thing as cell phones . . . no calls could be taken anyway, during meals. What was there to do? We had conversation. We were happy for each other’s accomplishments and sad for disappointments. It strengthened the family.
- Allowance? ha! I had a warm bed, a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and nice clothes . . . that was my allowance. When I did get money from working little jobs for people or birthday cards, I was expected to be responsible with it. Sure, I was surprised every now and then with something unexpected from my parents (a candy bar, a Frosty at Wendy’s, a small, wooden glider plane at the Dollar Store, etc.), and it made it all the more special.
- There was a deep pride in being an American. The flag was respected, and it was truly an honor to be picked to put up and take down the flag at school . . . never allowing it to touch the ground. There was no such animal as political correctness. Things were what they were. Sit on your butt all day and not look for a job? You were a bum. Get pregnant and have five children by five different men? You were a slut. The grey area was very, very thin, if it existed at all.
- Coaches were feared and revered. They screamed and cursed and demanded. They kept score in everything from a simple scrimmage to a full fledged game. If you lost, you were a loser. Shocking I know. Guess what? Not everybody received a trophy either. Trophies are for accomplishing something, not just breathing. Competition is a good thing.
- Guns were a part of my life growing up. I knew, being around guns, that they were not toys. Our guns were not in a vault. I was taught how to respect a weapon and use it effectively. I hunted with family and only killed what I would eat and nothing more.
- Bullies were not tolerated. No, we didn’t do like today and sit around and color “bullying” posters or talk about how awful bullies are. We did things differently. I never got into trouble for fighting, if I was standing up for myself. Contrary to popular opinion, violence IS sometimes necessary. Pick a place after school and clear the air. Bullies can learn valuable lessons too.
- There were such things as boy toys and girl toys. The term “gender neutral” didn’t exist. Forcing boys to play with dolls to embrace their “softer side” would have been some form of insanity, when I was a kid. Boys were expected to be rough, dirty, and skinned up, while at the same time being raised to see a woman as someone to adore and respect . . . by watching his father. THAT is where the tenderness was found.
So it is . . . things that blow the minds of millennials. Every now and again, I’ll remind a millennial of a few things “back in the day.” I chuckle at the various responses, and many think that I am pulling their leg. Year after year, I watch the hundreds of children walking in the hallways of our school and wonder where things went askew. I am not just moving with the times? Am I stuck in an old way of thinking? I can’t force myself to believe that. We were all created for a purpose and for different purposes. We can’t all be the same. Sameness is boring and an impossibility. So the next time you’re around a millennial, spread the word of how wonderful it was “back in the day.”