Did Baby Boomer parents suck?

Ask what's wrong with kids today and the answer might be us...

Recently McDonald’s stated its interest in hiring elderly workers and part of their reasoning was that the elderly tend to have the “soft skill” of timeliness.

Two things about that piss me off.

First, somebody is getting paid a great deal of money to come up with bullshit terms like “soft skills” and secondly, showing up for your job when you’re supposed to show up is now considered a skill.

Another soft skill is “positive attitude.”

So if you can show up on time and not be a dick, you’re a valuable employee and I’m pretty sure I could go one for two in that league so if things get bad enough, McDonald’s here I come.

But that still leaves a burning question unanswered: how did Western Civilization fall so far that showing up for your job is now considered a skill?

Everybody gets a trophy

We’re now entering the phase of the program where I generalize like crazy so if you think this doesn’t apply to you, go ahead and feel like an exception.

But…

Enough parents of our generation were so afraid that our kids’ feelings would get hurt that we started handing out participation trophies.

So whether they practiced, worked hard and played great or didn’t learn the plays or listen to the coach and played like crap didn’t make a difference…all the kids got the same shitty plastic trophy which they usually managed to break on the way home and would throw in the bottom of some closet, never to be thought of again.

I’d say giving everyone a trophy that sounds like Communism or Socialism or some other-ism, but if you told Joseph Stalin himself you played a game of soccer and didn’t keep score because you didn’t want anyone to feel like a loser – especially the losers – I think he’d say, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

Nope, Joe, we did that.

So we managed to teach our kids that working hard didn’t matter and there was no point in being competitive because there are no winners or losers.

Which is OK up to a point, but sooner or later our kids were going to have to compete at something – getting into college, getting a job or getting laid – and we didn’t teach them how to handle failure because we couldn’t bear to see their feelings hurt.

In more ways than one, dealing with failure is a hard skill that we did our best to make sure our kids never learned.

Bubble-wrapped kids

This is only a theory I came up with after two beers and a shot of Crown Royal, but I sometimes think families used to have more kids because they were pretty sure to lose a couple to diphtheria, bear attack or threshing machine accidents and you needed enough surviving kids leftover to feed the chickens, slop the hogs and get the corn in come harvest time.   

(OK, I’m really talking out my ass now because I never did any of that, but I’m on a roll so stay out of my way.)

Anytime somebody starts going on about the good old days it’s a pretty good bet they’re not black, gay, female, Jewish, Hispanic, Chinese or anything other than white male; the good old days sucked big time for a whole bunch of people.

Nevertheless…

When I grew up in a small town it was a big deal to learn to ride a bike because that meant freedom and once you could wobble down the street without a helmet and steer your Schwinn through heavy traffic, your parents happily sent you off for a summer’s day of playing on the railroad tracks, searching for blasting caps at construction sites and swimming in the old rock quarry filled with stagnant rain water.

They’d yell, “Be home by dinner” and if you didn’t make it back on time, two or three days later they might alert Barney Fife down at the  courthouse and he, Otis the town drunk and Floyd the Barber might form a search party.

Andy probably had better shit to do…hey, you had five kids leftover so quit whining.

I think I had a point when I started this and I’m hoping the Mayberry search party stumbles over it…oh, yeah…just remembered:

The upbringing of the average Baby Boomer would get parents today locked up for child neglect, but if you managed to survive you did learn to be independent and get out of whatever trouble you got in on your own because you didn’t want your parents to find out all the stupid shit you managed to cram into a single day.

When I got older I got a job at the earliest opportunity because a job meant a car and a car meant a chance for some heavy petting at the Se Rancho Drive-In movies. If I wanted any of that – and I did – it was up to me to get it.

When my son Paul (and I love him with all my heart) graduated from high school he wanted to know if he was getting a new car like a bunch of his friends and I pointed out there was a shortage of new cars around our house and I was thinking of a really nice Timex.

Now Paul is successful enough in the music business that I’m expecting my new car any day. (Paul, if you read this I’d like something badass in flat black with a nice set of rims…you know the address.)

So where was I? Right, running the gauntlet of death that was a kid’s upbringing in the late 1950s.

Maybe memories of exploring “haunted houses” or trying to figure out how deep that well was or where that cave led to if you went in far enough, is why we bubble-wrapped our kids and got them a Secret Service escort before sending them two blocks to school.

We knew the stupid stuff kids can get up to, but protecting them from anything bad ever happening to them had its own cost.

Face it, every kid can’t be special

If every kid was actually special then special would become normal and then none of them would be special, so why go down that road?

And if every kid could actually be anything he or she wanted to be – another line of crap we fed our kids – then we’d have to build a bigger White House so two thirds of the St. Elizabeth’s third graders could serve as co-Presidents and no matter who’s in office, one President at a time seems to be all this country can stand.

So we made sure nothing bad ever happened to our kids and told them they were special and wind up surprised when we have a generation of Millennials who feel entitled and think they ought to be able to show up for work whenever they feel like it.

“Punch a time clock? Fuck that, I’m special.”

On the other hand, if you were told you could be anything you wanted to be, went into debt to get through college and then couldn’t find anything better than asking overweight people if they wanted to super-size those fries so they could get even fatter, you might be resentful, too.

After all, it was Baby Boomer Johnny Paycheck (born Donald Eugene Lytle which really rolls off the tongue and would look awesome on a theater marquee) who had a hit with, “Take This Job and Shove It.”

So what have we learned so far?

First, that I’m a world-class whiner who doesn’t mind painting entire generations with the same brush if it suits my purposes and second…and second…OK, you’d think we all learned at least two things today, but maybe not.

Wait, got it.

Spare the rod…I mean do you really want to hit a kid?

OK, I just wrote and deleted a section advising young parents how to raise their kids because I started to sound like the type of person who pisses me off.

People who have a kid on Death Row will tell you how to raise your kids, people with three divorces are happy to dispense marital advice and people who can bust a set of bathroom scales by giving them a hard look are willing to criticize your diet.

I’m not a big fan of advice – either giving or receiving – because I figure you should have each and every one of your problems solved before you start in on mine and if that’s the bar I set for others, I can’t clear it either.

Here’s the best I can do: this is what I wish I had done more often and if you find it helpful, good for you.

I’m not a big fan of hitting a kid to teach them a lesson because the lesson they learn might be it’s OK to hit people you love if they piss you off.

But I do wish I’d made greater use of logical consequences.

If you don’t want to eat dinner, fine, but that’s what there is to eat and if you go to bed hungry maybe you’ll eat a big breakfast. If you break something, don’t expect to be bailed out, work it off and pay for it. If you want a trophy, practice.

And if things don’t work out the way you hoped and you wind up working at McDonald’s, show up on time.