soft-serve: the entitlement generation

I’m telling you, I knew it.  According to my research (Google), the wipe-warmer was invented in 1983 and first entered the market in 1988.  Yep.  That means there’s a direct correlation between the wipe-warmer and the entitlement generation.

A baby is tough.   Look at what she goes through just to get here.  And the struggle doesn’t stop once she’s here; then she’s faced with cold dry air, food she suddenly has to work for, and an internal system that hasn’t yet figured itself out.

But she’s strong and determined. Don’t soften her.  She can handle a room-temperature wipe on her buttocks.

Maybe it stems from a desire we have to make things easy for them.  Our intentions are good; we want them to be happy.  But we want to give them that happiness, instead of encouraging them to find it on their own. (I wonder if all babies could be self-soothers if we just gave them a chance to soothe themselves.  My youngest, perhaps because he is the youngest, shakes his head back and forth and sings to put himself to sleep.  Occasionally this is embarrassing, as he sings louder the closer he gets to sleep.)

When they’re infants, we set up audio monitors and video monitors in every room so that we can respond to each sound with something that might appease them.  When they become young children, instead of teaching them to sit through a wait at a restaurant, we put iPads on their placemats.  Instead of teaching them the license plate game or the alphabet game as a way to stomach a long car ride, we install miniature screens into the backs of each headrest in our SUVs.  (During our commute one morning, Jane, my daughter, saw one of these in the car beside us.  She yelled out, “Look!  That car has a TV in it!” and giggled maniacally as though it was the craziest thing she had ever seen.)

About a week after I learned that the iPhone was the number-one toy among three-year-olds in our nation, my husband and I took the kids to Big Jammalamma, a music festival in Lakeland, Florida.  There was an older couple selling hotdogs from a booth near our blanket, and as the sun went down and the evening wore a purplish halo, the man approached us to say how much he admired the fact that our kids had been playing outside all day long without any electronics.  He got a kick out of their dancing, their thorough examination of the bark of a nearby oak,  and their impromptu game of tag over the open field. (At that moment, Jane was rolling around in a pile of dirt that, it turned out, were fire ant mounds.  A few minutes later, I watched from afar as a half-dozen children swatted and slapped at her in what looked like some kind of hazing ritual before I realized what had happened.) 

I thought it was strange to be receiving accolades for letting our kids play.  But maybe it was more than that.  Maybe it was for asking our kids to entertain themselves, for asking them to work to find their own happiness.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing about me that is anti-technology.  I mean, come on, people.  This is a blog, after all.  And my kids know who the Angry Birds are, I promise.  But I don’t believe in technology for technology’s sake.  And I don’t believe in making everything in life “easier,” if it can create detrimental consequences.

And, as a high school teacher, I don’t like what I see in my classroom.  I don’t like asking a hard question and getting a Googled answer.  I don’t like being ignored for text messages and Words with Friends and Facebook.  And I don’t like that my students want me to give them the answer, to give them the A.

But maybe this is what happens when we sugarcoat everything for them.  When we hand them the difficult events of life and the world wrapped in shiny armor made of rock candy.  When we give everyone a trophy because everyone is a “winner.”  When we do it all for them just to make it a little easier (Oh, Mary Poppins, please don’t tell me this is your fault   . . . a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down . . . ).

But here’s the thing:  life isn’t going to be easy.  It’s going to be hard.  Really hard. And everyone can’t always win.  Sometimes, no one does.

And, really, for whom does it make things easier?

So, listen.  If you’re going to a baby shower and your mother-to-be-friend has registered for a wipe-warmer, do her (and the baby) a really huge favor, and don’t buy it.  And if someone else buys it and you watch her unveil it from behind that pretty pastel wrapping paper, don’t clap.  Don’t oooohhh and aaahhhh.  Just sigh.  And be prepared.


9 thoughts on “soft-serve: the entitlement generation

  1. Phenonominal article! You hit the nail on the head!! And it all starts with wiper warmers!!!
    You put to voice what I Tony and I have been harping about for years… Thanks for sharing and trying to be the best parent you can be!!!

  2. Pingback: word to your mother | welcome to grace.

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