A view on the Generation Gap
Although dads and sons share the presence of the ‘Y’ chromosome to make us male, and we may share many interests, traits, and even features, but one thing that we cannot share is the time in which we grew. Often the generation gap is the biggest difference.
I grew up in the sixties and seventies. As a child, we had black and white TV with a choice of just three channels. Metal and wooden toys, cold winters, home cooking from scratch – every day, candlewick bedspreads, playing freely in the woods all day, lots of space with few people. Marriage was common and divorce rare. I physically touched my first computer as a father aged 23.
Music-wise, I had the influence of Woodstock combined with ‘Flower Power’, Rock & Roll, The Beatles, and Crooners. I passed through Motown, Mod-Rock, and Glam-Rock. I sat and watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon, and cowboys films on TV.
My Dad was born in 1938 and I loved him. He was my hero and my rock. I wanted to be like him and was constantly emulating him; but, I didn’t really know him nor understand him as I had not lived through the war, through rationing, nor through his social-bounds. Life, for me, was probably a lot more ‘comfortable’ than for him as a child. And, for my own sons, it’s the same.
Three generations. Me, my Son, and my Dad.
Life, for my sons, was more ‘comfortable’ growing up. Health care was better (though obesity more common), options for entertainment wider, legislation such as compulsory seatbelts in cars served to protect them; but, the downside was less freedom, more crowding. Marriage before parenthood became rarer with divorce commonplace, resulting in less attention from stressed parents trying to come to terms with a fast pace of life.
My grandsons could navigate an iPad before they could read, but cannot be let out of sight for fear of abduction… a fair trade-off? Methinks not.
Given that we cannot experience what our parents experienced, and can only observe what our children experience, it’s essential to, as one of my sons said to me when discussing this post, “understand that we cannot understand”. If you take a moment to consider what he said you’ll appreciate just how profound that is.
We can try to understand, we can hope to understand but it’s more important to accept our limit of understanding than to actually understand. This way we can allow our own Dads and Sons the right to be who they are without being judgemental. The generation gap is not a bad thing when we understand how it must exist. It is an essential part of society.
One of my good friends is from a small town just north of Frankfurt. My Dad couldn’t fully appreciate how he could be my friend, and I couldn’t appreciate how he could judge my friend without knowing him. I then remembered being told how he was blown out of his pushchair, and his Mum (my grandmother) blown to the ground when a German bomb hit a building at the end of their street in London. I began to see where he was coming from; however, I couldn’t possibly understand, but, that’s okay.
As with many things, communication is the key, here. I never remember my Dad telling me that he loved me, though I know that he did, and I only told him twice; once when I had gotten engaged to be married to my first wife, and once as he lay dying from cancer in hospital at the relatively young age of 60. I vowed to tell my sons (I never had daughters) that I loved them whenever possible.
I never knew what my Dad lived for, what dreams he had. I guess I never considered him to want anything other than what he had, and he, probably, would not have told me anyway. I like to think that I have a reasonable understanding of my sons’ dreams. My youngest son had a very clear dream to be an international archer and compete for his Country. He made the GB squad as a junior, and represented England in team tournaments and won. I don’t know what his current dreams are, but would like to.
Earlier in this post, I mentioned the music of my childhood, Dad never really understood ‘my’ music. One birthday he went to buy me a record (yes, vinyl), and I was into Marc Bolan and T-Rex. At the record shop he picked up a record for me but my step-mother pointed out that it was wrong. She pointed out that I like T-Rex… he had picked-up Tex Ritter, an American country singer from the 1930s. I confess that I would probably make a similar mistake for my kids.
A wonderful group from my generation was Crosby, Stills, & Nash (and latterly Young). Graham Nash wrote a song about the responsibilities of communication between the generations, and how these responsibilities lay with BOTH generations… Parents to their children, and children to their parents. The song is called Teach Your Children and was released when I was 10 years old.
Crosby, Stills and Nash.
It’s interesting, to me anyway, that the song is about inter-generational harmony, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young were the masters of vocal harmony in their day. There have been several covers of the song, including by Hanson in 2003, when my first-born son was 20 years old. The song and its message is still valid, today.
Ultimately, most disagreements, falling-outs, anger, hurt, and pain, result from communication failures, the generation gap being no different. A recognition that we may not understand the other person’s position is one thing; however, it’s important, as my son, Garrick, said: “understand that we cannot understand“.