Monday, October 14, 2013

My Family Schemata, from Gen to Gen

Baby Chase on his computer, learning the alphabet.
Gen Tech, the Cyber generation, on the horizon! 
I read an article on the "risk-adverse" Gen Y at the doctor's office.  The author talks about Gen.X and Y, gen this and gen that, without defining them.  A reader gives this breakdown:
*2000-present   Gen Z, the New Silent Generation
*1980-2000      Gen Y, the Millennials 
*1965-1979      Gen X
*1946-1964      Baby Boomers
*1936-1945      War babies born before 1946 

I'm not sure this is accurate, and I've see different dates, but I can go with it.  It provides a kind of schemata for my family, and maybe yours, too.  I’m a war baby on the cusp of the Boomer generation. My kids are Gen X.  My grandkids are Gen Y, except for the youngest, Chase, two years old, who is Gen Z.  My great-grandson Philip, age 6, is Gen Z, too.    

World War II babies who grew up in the 1950s were walloped by the post-World War II generation of Boomers, outmatched, outnumbered, and outsized.  We grew up during the era of the "Feminine Mystique" only to confront the era of the Feminist movement, and also the  anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements.

Do you remember those days?  I would say that most of us at the time didn’t know what hit us, but we forged bravely on, swept up in the historic movements for change, still wearing our crinolines and cinch belts and waving copies of Good Housekeeping. Well, some of us gave those up, when we went to graduate school and to work, and put Peace stickers and flowers on our VW Vans. But we were still war babies more than boomers deep down.  It’s no accident our divorce rates soared, sending shock waves into Gen X and also Gen Y.

So far as I can tell the Gen Xers, my daughters' generation, are progressive thinkers but not social activists. They take for granted the rights and privileges for which we fought. I suggested my kids watch the PBS documentary "Women Who Made History" because they don't know this story that made their lives better. But they are too busy. They’ve had it pretty good, although they worry about jobs and economic security.  They are a lot more open and tolerant about things like lifestyles and choices; don’t get worked up about politics too much; take life day-by-day. They are hard workers, and if there are some dreamers among them, they have their feet planted on the ground.  I think the idealism of the Boomers and the confusion of the War babies who mingled with them led the way for the realism of Gen Xers. 

I am not sure about my grandchildren’s generation, the Millennials, or Gen Y. Are they "risk-adverse?" Maybe so.  They seem to value security a great deal. They're pretty laid-back, even more open and tolerant to different lifestyles than their parents, very focused on the job market and how it affects their choices and work life. They are totally comfortable with computer technology and using the internet, do their homework online, research every topic under the sun, and then some.  They believe that the worst college majors are in the humanities.  They like history, literature, and languages, but see them as periphery to their lives--more like window dressing or jewelry--not intrinsic, as my generation did.  

Coming up next are my grandkds' children, and those born in the 21st century, Gen.Z.  I'm calling them the Tech Gen, or the Cyber Gen. They are growing up in the midst of technological and social changes that are still unraveling, already playing on computers, using a mouse, learning complex games that stump their grandmas. They have lots of curiosity, and like books, but they love computers. Their heads are in their parents' or siblings'  iphones, ipads and nooks. They play with smart phones. Philip, age 6, is already a whiz. Chase is enchanted by watching Baby Mozart on the computer, and learning how clicking a button leads to something he enjoys. How clicking this leads to that. He’s learning the alphabet this way. He's not even two years old.    

So this is the schemata of my family life, and maybe yours, from generation to generation. From War Babies to Gen X, Y, and Z, with Gen Tech, the Cyber Generation, on the horizon.  

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