The Greatest Generation by Christine Gunderson
This month our blog is about advice. But my advice has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with parenting. And believe me, most days I am the least qualified person in America to give parenting advice, but here goes.
My advice to my fellow parents is this: Maybe it’s time to look at our kids and the pandemic in a new way. Maybe instead of worrying about all the things our children have lost and missed, we could try looking at these hardships with a tiny bit of gratitude and a whole lot of pride. Because I believe the kids we’re raising today are America’s next Greatest Generation, not in spite of Covid, but because of it.
The original Greatest Generation is the cohort of Americans born from 1901 to 1927. They grew up during the Great Depression and then saved the world from fascism by winning World War II.
Many of us have grandparents from the Greatest Generation. My grandmother carefully saved used wrapping paper and put plastic bread bags inside boots to make them waterproof. She was a walking Hints from Heloise column and she wasted nothing because she grew up during hard times. My other grandmother spent her schoolteacher summers working as Rosie the Riveter in an aircraft factory while her future husband fought the Germans in North Africa.
Let’s think about this for a minute. Making do with what you have. Growing up in hard times. Sacrificing for the common good. Being separated from those you love. Who does this remind you of?
Not me obviously. I’m Gen X and the only things I’ve been forced to sacrifice for the common good are my shoes at the airport, and I’ve only had to do that since 9-11.
But our kids are another story.
They’ve sacrificed proms, graduations, slumber parties, sports, high school musicals and freshman college keg parties. They made do with car parade birthday celebrations. They’ve played sports in masks. And they’ve done everything from long division to dance lessons to Model UN conferences on Zoom. Bread bags in the boots are nothing compared to the endless days our kids have spent living their lives on screen.
And as a result, they’ve become good people, the kind of people the world desperately needs.
My thirteen-year-old son Mark recently volunteered to be part of a vaccine clinical trial for kids. He said, “If no one volunteers for the trial, there will never be a vaccine for kids and life will never go back to normal.”
This is the same logic my grandfather used when he volunteered to fight in the Second World War. Someone had to liberate Europe. Why not him?
My son Erik is a high school freshman, and his idea of fun is hiking five or ten miles, almost every weekend, often in the rain, to raise money for children’s cancer research. He’s hiking with his friend Joseph, who walks on a hip damaged by radiation and chemotherapy, and his friend Lauren, who in addition to hiking for cancer research also uses her prodigious math skills to tutor other children on Zoom in her spare time for free.
***Shameless and Brazen Fundraising Appeal***
If you would like to help them raise money for children’s cancer research, you can donate here!!!!
And these are just a handful of the great kids I happen to know. You probably have a few in your life as well. There are so many kids out there doing similar things to make their world a better place, in spite of Covid and because of Covid.
I would like to point out that in my spare time I am not hiking in the rain to raise money for children’s cancer research. I am sitting in a chair watching Netflix. And when my boots leak, I do not encase my feet in bread bags. I spend way too much time and money on Zappos shopping for new ones.
Our children are not saints, of course. As parents, we have spent 365 plus days trapped in an enclosed space with people who:
Put empty ice cream cartons back in the freezer
Leave crumpled up Band Aid wrappers in the Band Aid box
Use approximately 750 thousand drinking glasses, cups, and water bottles every time they consume any beverage
Festoon the house, the garage, the car and even the backyard with dirty socks
Equate dishwasher unloading with climbing Mt. Everest and/or running a marathon.
But some day they will grow up and we will grow old. When we exit the stage, our tough, pragmatic, empathetic kids will run the show, and I personally can’t wait.
Our Covid kids will set the world on fire because they understand sacrifice and disappointment and doing without. And love. They really understand love.
If we look at history, we see that our Greatest Generation grandparents came home from World War II and in the prosperous and peaceful world they made safe for democracy they raised...the Baby Boomers.
I know. So, our grandkids might be more like us. A little soft. Whiny. Kind of self-indulgent. Not every generation can be great, after all.
But this next one is, and we’re lucky to be their parents.
Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor and reporter and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star, the Wonder Dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion, or unloading the dishwasher. You can contact her at www.christinegunderson.com