You might think it odd, (unless you know me, and you know that odd is my modus operandi), that only this morning, at 640 am to be precise, did it dawn on me that the age difference between my children and I is a generation.
A generation is usually considered to be somewhere around 25 years – I guess it varies depending on where you are living, life expectancy, birth rate and so on; this has been the figure I’ve heard mooted for… well, probably 25 years.
I am 45 and my son is 14.
That is more than a generation.
There was a similar age-gap between me and my parents.
I know this does not affect an individual’s feelings – I can’t imagine that being born when your mum and dad are 18 or 38 makes much difference to the love you have for them, it does, in all likelihood affect the way you see, interpret and understand the world.
This was the realisation.
That came, as I say early today.
I suspect this notion was augmented by my experience yesterday afternoon of participating in mock exams with final-year medical students.*
These folk, most of whom I imagine were 23 or 24 years old whilst not quite a generation different to me, were certainly living a university experience far removed from mine (they mostly seemed infinitely more competent) (if that is any reassurance).
Their sense of the world, experience of life, as with my son and daughter is so very different to mine that I cannot really understand what they are seeing, perceiving.
Yes, no one has any sense of another’s experience – we all live in head bubbles surrounded by constructed reality, but, the perceptions and interpretations – the nuances, subtleties of culture are far-apart.
None of this is new – it has been ongoing throughout our evolution, although likely more extreme now as, the gap between generations, at least in the UK is increasing, and, the rate of change is also accelerating.
Between my grandparents of eight generations ago and their parents, there was likely far less change.
When I ask (c.f. ‘tell’) my kids to eat their greens, it is with an eye on their future cardiovascular and cancer risk rather than concerns about malnutrition – this compared to my mum or dad growing-up in the war years.
When I worry that my kids aren’t reading enough, when I reflect on my days spent, solitary, discovering Garcia Marquez, Kafka or Salinger, I compare this to their gaze at a smartphone You-Tube loop.
And, it is always the case that older generations look at those who are younger and consider what has been lost – cycling to school, driving without seat-belts, Friday-night Red-Kola.
We face sunk-cost, loss aversion, rather than consider the benefits of fewer brain injuries, mashed cars and dental caries.
None of this is new, it just struck me as particular this morning.
There is nothing I can do about it.
Or is there?
Perhaps, the most important self-talk message should be to stop worrying.
Realise that when I perceive the world, what I think, feel, fear will always be modified by time and age, understood differently by my children, just as the interactions I have with older people.
There are the commonalities – the golden threads of humour, love, fear, anxiety that haven’t evolved or changed over time, although I do find Laurel and Hardy funny, whereas my kids won’t go near a black and white movie.
Let’s celebrate what we have, let’s consider ourselves fortunate to have the time and space to consider, reflect on the past and future.
And, perhaps, pause a little before despairing over the younger generation. They really are, for most part, us, plus a little bit, not lesser, but, sharper, more nuanced in their tastes, quicker in the uptake of learning and concepts;
Let them be and let ourselves be, and, stop worrying.
*Their obsession with Purell, rolled-up sleeves and tielessness a particular feature.