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Who Wants My Grandmother’s Dining Room Table? We Keep Memories, Our Millennial Kids Don’t.



In a rare burst of hospitable energy, I invited my friend, Liz and the new longish-term man in her life, to come to dinner on Sunday night. Anticipating our  dinner guests, ever so subtly my husband suggested that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to clean and organize my study.

The New Man, my husband noted, might be put off, if – while en route to our “powder room” – he caught a glimpse of my work area with its disheveled stacks of files and heaps of my carefully curated, extremely relevant, never-to-be-discarded or read again newspaper articles?

O.K., so I am a collector, do you have a problem with that?

If you are in my general age bracket, you may be a collector too. Of newspaper articles, vintage jewelry boxes, antique candle sticks, old sports memorabilia.

A recent article in the Washington Post  confirmed what I had suspected – our adult millennial children are not like us. They do not collect.

Millennials, the article tells us, don’t keep their old college text books in their basement like we do we did. They live simpler lives, preferring their own personal design aesthetic to inherited brown furniture.

I am coming to grips with this fact.

It is highly unlikely that my own kids will want my grandmother’s large, mahogany dining room table nor will they fight over my well-loved, but hardly used (I’m still saving it for “good”), 12 place settings of ornate sterling silver.

We boomers believe that our memories are stored in tangible objects.  Our adult kids do not wax as nostalgic over generational hand-me-downs. They value intangibles instead. Posting their experiences as they experience them, they instagram, they snapchat and then, poof, what could become a memory quickly disappears.

How will our adult kids pass down memories to their own kids if their memories never leave their iPhones?

Yet another problem I won’t be around to solve.

I do see the Millennial attraction to intangibles. They are definitely the lighter way to go.

Admission:  Sometimes I feel tied down by, rather than affectionate towards, the very tangible objects in which my family memories are stored. My grandmother’s dining room table has never been and is not now, let’s face it, an attractive piece of furniture. It is an ungainly space occupier that can seat 12 people. The last time I hosted 12 people at a sit-down dinner was never.

But a few years ago when I considered  – in a brief, wild, rebellious moment  – that I might rid myself of the old dining room table and purchase a new more contemporary one, I could not bring myself to do it.

Sad to contemplate, then, that the big brown dining room table along with my grandfather’s collection of old beer steins and my aunt’s no longer tunable piano will probably end their useful lives in a tag sale, a thrift shop or shudder to think, our county dump.

So when it came time to plan the menu for our Sunday dinner for four, I decided to go all out. Let’s put some sentimental items to work for a change!

Put an old white tablecloth that was my mother’s onto the big brown table. Use a vase we received as a wedding present 37 years ago for flowers. Hand-wash the crystal, half-moon-shaped salad plates that have quietly resided in the china cabinet for all these years. Drag the sterling silver flatware downstairs for its annual airing. Just using all of these tangible objects did make me feel a bit nostalgic.

But I firmly draw the line at cleaning and/or organizing my study.

I do plan, however, you will be glad to hear, to give a full cleaning to our “powder room” (in which, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever applied powder)  before Liz and her New Man arrive. I figure if he is as thoughtful and kind as Liz says he is, he will also be smart enough to look the other way if happens upon my messy study. I am too attached to the reassuring existence of my carefully curated nest of newspaper articles to sort through and discard any of them – at least for now.

Why mess with my memories while I still have them?







Filed under Adult Kids, Baby Boomers, Family, Female Friends, friendship, Husbands, Parenting, Women

Up to Here with Helicopters! (Confessions of a Former Parachute Parent)

no helicopter parentingI have had it up to here with “Helicopter” Parents  – with the name, with the description, with the concept, with the articles praising them, defending them, explaining them.

(Nancy – tell us how you really feel!)

For those of you not living within the reach of any media, “helicopter” parenting is a term coined in the early 2000’s in connection with the college application process to describe parents who constantly “hover” over their kids, overly-controlling and excessively-involved in all aspects of their lives.

My two kids were in high school in the early 2000’s – but I was much too busy to hover! (Wasn’t I, kids? please submit your rebuttal comments in writing at the bottom of this post.)

I had a full-time job the entire time my kids were growing up, a house to take care of, volunteer groups to show up for, friends to see – and, last but not least, a husband who wanted my attention every now and then.

But – True Confession: I was, often, but not always, just a step above the hovering helicopters. I liked to call myself  a “parachute” parent.

Parachute parents don’t hover or linger but we did swoop in from time to time to solve a problem we thought our kids couldn’t manage on their own and then we lifted ourselves back up awaiting the next parachuting opportunity. And what did I learn from my parachuting days when my kids were in their teens and early 20’s?

That I shouldn’t have done it. Each time I parachuted in to fix something – what was the message I was sending to my kid? – I was telling them that they weren’t able to solve their own problems. But I was undermining them. I was depriving them of the chance to figure out a solution.

Which, of course, is the exact opposite message we want to send as parents, isn’t it? And for years I was as guilty of parachuting in and out as often as the most helicopterish of parents. I would defend myself (as I am doing here) with this very Talmudic (o.k. to look that word up) exercise to explain why parachuting was somehow more acceptable than helicoptering. It wasn’t. It isn’t.

Pro Tip: neither parachutes nor helicopters should we be.

Even jokingly. We owe it to our kids to let them fly the nest unaccompanied, to let them learn to handle the tough stuff on their own. They are way more resilient than we may like to think.

Yet this helicopter thing just won’t go away.

Today I read (yet another) article about “helicopter” parenting. In a semi-joking, semi-serious way, the author defended the concept. About how helicoptering intentions were honorable and it was only out of love that they made an appointment to meet with the head of the math department to complain when Emily or Josh was not put in a sufficiently advanced pre-calculus class. Or why it was necessary to “edit” (a/k/a write more than a few sentences) their college application essays.  Or to FedEx rolls of quarters to them while they were away at college so they could do their laundry and not have to walk that very long distance to the bank near campus to get their own quarters.

Or when the helicopter parents visit on College Family Weekend and actually do laundry for Josh and Emily who were too busy “studying”. (After all, What’s a Mom for?)

And when these same hovered-over, parachuted-upon kids graduate from college and leave for their first jobs, new cities, own apartments, the most helicopterish among us mount a new line of defense. They miss their kids so much that they delude themselves into thinking that the best way to stay close to their kids is to find new high-tech ways to hover. To “stalk” them on Facebook, check their twitter feeds, text them constantly, follow them on Instagram.

Really, fellow-parents, doesn’t this extreme “keep in touch” behavior fall into the “Get a Life, Mom” category? Our kids know how to reach us if they need us. Trust me on that. Shouldn’t we lessen up on needing them at about the same time that they lessen up on needing us?

My husband reminds me that he was a “1st generation to college” kid. He went on his own to a distant college in a state his immigrant parents had never heard of. While his classmates from Scarsdale showed up on the first day of school with their parents in their packed station wagons, he flew by himself, carrying one old suitcase across the old campus and miracle of miracles, managed to settle in without parental assistance. He then spent the next four years of college on his own talking to his parents once a week, if that. His Mom and Dad saw his university for the first – and only time – on the day of his graduation, 40 years ago.

Obviously we cannot return to the old days with their more limited methods of communications. But just because current methods of technology – email, cell phones, texting, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat — snapshut, whatever is coming next –  now make it possible for us to parachute in or hover above, let’s rise above those urges, shall we? We aren’t doing our young adult kids any favors. Let them show us how capable they are of independent existence.

That whirring sound you hear? Could it be the sound of the helicopter parents lifting up into the clouds to disappear forever?


Filed under Adult Kids, College, College, Communications, Email, Letting Go, Moms, Parenting, Women