My world-travelling, city-dwelling daughter sends me articles on all manner of cultural matters, and a recent missive stirred up thoughts about matters generational.
My maternal grandmother had strong opinions on most everything. Her husband, my grandfather, was a rock whose values remain solid to this day. My parents were clear about what they thought on issues large and small.
    {mosimage}One of my daughter’s latest emails springs from the London Times, suggesting the possibility that the members of Generation X someday might just follow their parents, the Baby Boomers, down the well-trodden path to the same garden once they reach retirement age. Shane Watson, the author of the article and no doubt a GenXer himself, writes that “according to a new study published by the Economic and Social Research Council, the generation that rejected… every single convention of adult life are making like their parents in retirement… They may have more wind chimes in the garden… but the disciples of the new age are using their golden years like every pensioner before them — for home improvements and long walks.”  Well, duh!
    Both common sense and scientific research tell us that sooner or later, all of us develop habits and interests that closely resemble those of our parents and others whose opinions, attitudes and general presence formed us. We share genes and histories with our parents, so the fact that we do things like our parents comes as no surprise. As a know-it-all college student in the early 1970s, I thought my father’s dismissal of long-haired hippies terribly provincial and my mother’s convictions regarding social behavior decidedly old fashioned. We Baby Boomers did it our own way — long hair, Birkenstocks, peace signs, as we labored to find ourselves. We proudly gave ourselves an absolutely unique place in the culture of the world, and for a time that was true.             Now, I know better. 
    Even being special turns into history, and experiences, thoughts and values flow from generation to generation.
    As a parent of young adult children, my own words are coming back me. Talking to my city-dwelling daughter recently, she repeated something that I said many times in her childhood: “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t.” It came out of her mouth verbatim and with conviction.
    She has had similar experiences with parental advice. Having worked at a camp for many summers, she has found herself telling her campers the very things that she resisted hearing from her own parents.
Some advice stands the test of time.
    As we move along life’s continuum, we exchange the excitement of youth for the comforts of maturity. When we would have once jumped at the prospect of a rock concert or a spontaneous road trip, it is now enough to listen to NPR. When we might have dreamed of climbing Mount Everest, it becomes enough to look forward to a window-watching, garden-peeping walk through the neighborhood with a good friend. It becomes enough to look forward to an evening with friends with a social hour, a wonderful — even fabulously cooked dinner, and home quite a bit before midnight.
    All parents want our children to live lives filled with success and happiness and independence. We want to be able to watch from afar as they fulfill their dreams and ours for them. Admit it or not, we also want and need to see a bit of ourselves in them as they move through life’s adventures.
    It is a comfort, revelation, and source of much satisfaction to me to listen to my children’s conversation with each other. Much of it involves their friends, their common experiences which do not include me, and current cultural influences too au courant to have reached me yet.
    I do see, though, the common thread passed down to me from my parents and grandparents, and no doubt to them from their parents and grandparents, of how to build a life, how to treat other people, and how to live in a way that satisfies you and enriches those around you.
    Those teachings transcend generations, whether we wear Birkenstocks or Jimmy Choose, whether we listen to our music on the radio or on an iPod, whether we have flowing tresses or a buzz cut, whether we are plain as the way nature made us or decorated with body art.
    I have found as a parent that it is hard to know what your message to your children really is much less whether it is getting through.  There are days you are sure it is not, and days when you think it might be after all.
    There can be signs, though.
    I was absolutely thrilled not long ago when my daughter repeated in casual conversation that “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
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