This doesn’t sound really profound at first. I begin with what we already know.
We are shaped by genetics and influence from the environment and the home. (Yeah! Really! This is news?) Yet, we are still responsible for our decisions. If the parent(s) messed up, we should be looking for a better life or an alternative answer outside the home rather than use their poor decisions to excuse ours. If we simply don’t like what the parents are trying to teach us, we look for an alternative outside the home as well. The latter is sometimes referred to as rebellion.
If we have even a relatively good relationship with our parents indicating a solid bond, we really do turn into our parents in several ways eventually. We can run. We can’t hide. We can scream out our independence to exhaustion to no avail. It’s a rule.
I base the following on the western culture, which, contrary to the new internationalist view, is not evil. Just ….. us. Western culture. No guilt. No endorsement. It just is what it is. Much of my logic is based also on my own world since that is just what I said, my world and my parents’ world. I’m sticking pretty much to the majority middle class of the period. WASP, ok? Here goes.
For centuries, women married men (what a concept) and bore as many children as nature willed with very few exceptions. Let’s zero in on the first 40 to 50 years of the 20th century for a generalized snapshot of American society.
People were married and lived somewhat close to the parents. The siblings, cousins, and grandparents were usually within a few counties or a neighboring state. The majority of these young couples stayed married. To each other. Children graced the house usually within 18 months of the marriage and kept coming 1 to 3 years apart for up to 20 years. Families of 4 children were probably well below the average in the beginning of the century but were considered a nice round figure by the time I was asked in the 1950’s how many children I wanted when I grew up. This round figure pleased the ancestors and allowed wiggle room for the current generation of parents for a better lifestyle sooner than later. “Two boys and two girls.” Stock answer.
When did the God, Mom, and Apple Pie norm start to morph at an alarming rate unknown before? When the birth control pill hit the shelf. Freedom! There was no longer one choice ahead of millions of young women who wanted educations, careers, and STUFF! Lots and lots of stuff like everybody else had, everybody else being the older generation who worked a lifetime to achieve their stuff via cash instead of credit. A whole new world was opened, a cornucopia of choices not dependent on anything but what one wanted. Oh, sure, kids too, but only if they were … wanted.
My revelation of the day is why I wasn’t necessarily one of the horses anxious to race with the times. The people who influenced me were part of the world described above. Their influence was from the previous century. Family was life, life was family. It’s as if I was born 20 years late, in a time warp of my own, a square peg in a wild asymetrical trapezoid hole.
My perception of the world around me was seen through experiences that weren’t my own. Many of my peers’ parents were little children in the Depression. My parents were adults in the 30’s trying to make a living in direct combat with the Depression. Their formative years were during World War I. My peers’ parents weren’t old enough to fight in WWII. They knew post-war prosperity and didn’t have to struggle for food. Because my parents consistently shared their experience with me and the experience of their elders, I had a great deal more to bring to the decision making table in the 60’s.
It was inconceivable to me, since my dad was in WWII to protest any war and disrespect the soldiers who were laying down their lives for me. The anytime-I-want-it sex revolution made possible by the pill really was what my parents called it — sin. Participation did not compute — because of the way I was raised. At the ripe old age of 18, I knew that hell was on the other end unless I gave myself over to Jesus Christ. My generation was the quagmire, not the war! The vast majority of Viet Nam vets will tell you in detail how they had the ability to push Charlie into Mongolia but the politicians and the oh-so-together know-it-all college age protesters stuck their collective foot in it (sound familiar?) and doomed America to its most shameful failure to date, until now. Remember there was a draft then, a lottery. Low number, go to Nam — a healthy motivation to protest and move to Canada for someone sold out to “Make Love, Not War” or “Peace at Any Price,” even the price of my grandchildren.
My birth coincided with the new nuclear age, the looming threat of a cold war over those very nukes, and the breaking news that the Rosenburgs had sold the technology to our enemy that 4 short years before was our ally.
You think it’s scary bringing a child into this world now. Even though it is, it also was.