Do you remember the Y2K babies…the four million+ little ones born into the tail end of the first internet boom?
Like the mysterious cicadas, these equally mysterious young people have emerged from their not-always-comfortable kid cocoons and have started graduating from high school and pouring into the world. They overran the college application process. They’ve taken all the men’s medium t-shirts and women’s size 7 shoes. They have used ALL THE DATA. They’re eating all the frozen yogurt and have taken up every seat on flights to Europe. Dear God, I hope they are finding their way to their polling places.
These kids were just little chubby babies on September 11, 2001, and our perspective and hopes for them changed in an instant, and continued to change again and again with the awful and exciting things that tend to happen through a person’s lifetime. Inventions. Wars. Societal and political shifts. Natural disasters. Personal heartbreak and triumph. Epic movie franchises and broken sports curses.
Our oldest son is one of these former babies/current graduates. He and his cohorts have put up with years of our inspirational chats, and the retelling of cautionary tales – urban legends about kids who didn’t study hard enough for the SAT or only took three years of a foreign language instead of four. They were constantly reminded that every move they made would affect the rest of their lives. Now that they’re done, and exhausted by all of our help, we’re like, “Oh don’t worry, you’re going to be fine. We just want you to be happy.”
It’s time for them to figure out their way. Our way depends on it.
The options for Y2K babies are different than those of every generation before them. We’re sending them into a weird world – where the possibilities feel infinite and finite, depending on the day. We (I) can’t unload our (my) panic about the mysterious state of the world onto them (him).
These new adults are Post Millennials. And it seems, while we were trying to make things so great, we’ve done everything in our power to make things as difficult as possible for them. As a proud Gen X parent, I feel like we’ve quietly put up with a lot, but we didn’t use any of that experience to help these kids. And so to you adorable group of Y2K baby graduates, I say…sorry, guys!
College admission is insanely competitive, and infinitely more expensive than what we had to deal with…tuition has gone up 260% since 1980, while other consumer goods have only gone up 120%. We’ve made it prohibitive in every way. You’re welcome!
We’ve re-wired your brains with our own lack of self control with technology – forcing our own addiction on you, then we get frustrated with how much you look at your little screen.
We shrug and turn to you – firmly resting our collective future onto your young shoulders. You’ll need to fix the environment and health care and race relations because it’s too hard and we can’t do it.
You’ll have to fix education – good luck since we messed that up pretty good (see above re: prohibitive)! We’ve known for a long time what keeps you healthy, but sorry – we’ve put sugar and garbage in everything you consume.
We haven’t fixed equity or equality of any kind. Sorry! We have only anecdotally modeled volunteerism, civic engagement, patience, kindness, generosity, and creative freedom. We haven’t let you explore your neighborhood, goofy hobbies, free time, play time or diversity.
You need to overcome a lot – us – to get to where you need to go….and not just where you need to go, but where you want to go. Because, let’s face it, we don’t know what you need. If we did, you sure wouldn’t be in this pickle! However, I do know that WE NEED YOU!
You’ve gone from being the children entrusted to us, to being our new co-workers, team members, fellow citizens and allies.
When you moved your tassel to the other side of your fancy flat hat, that’s what you got…a graduation party, and a seat at the table that should have been occupied by you all along.
Thank God for us, it looks like you nerds know what you are doing.
You’re smart, in spite of us, kind in spite of us, connected in spite of us. And yes, though you may not want our help anymore, we are in it together. We obviously can’t do it for you, but maybe if we work together, we can move the needle.
Hope you enjoyed your two days of sleeping in, you’re needed on the floor.