Good morning, everyone!
While I was away, I didn't post my weekly columns, so I thought I'd get caught up by running them now. Here's the first one, slightly out of date now, about the death of John Hughes. It ran two weeks ago in our newspapers.
When I was 16 I played the Molly Ringwald role in my high school’s version of The Breakfast Club. And I cheered along with all my friends when Ferris Bueller led Chicago in a raucous rendition of Twist ‘n Shout. John Hughes’ movies were a big part of my teen years.
John Hughes died earlier this month, by all accounts a bitter man. His movies seem born of that bitterness, although ironically he seemed bitter mostly towards his own generation. In every movie he wrote, the Baby Boomers were the bad guys. They jetted off to Europe leaving a child home alone. They forgot birthdays, cared about money more than kids, and worked so hard they had no clue what their children were actually up to. They had failed at their primary responsibilities.
Hughes was right; the Baby Boomers blew it. Not every individual Baby Boomer, of course! I’m rather fond of my in-laws, and I just returned from a five-day trip with my mother. But the generation as a whole messed up; and my generation, and our children, are still paying for it.
The Baby Boomers’ parents had lived through such hardship in the Great Depression and World War II that they wanted to spare their children pain. And when the economy boomed, they showered their kids with excess. Their kids started thinking they were the centre of the universe. The Baby Boomers thus bought the lie that has stalked our society since, poisoning everything from marriage to the workplace: “You deserve to be happy”. And then there’s the corollary: If you aren’t happy, ditch it. Do we deserve to be happy? I’m not so sure. I think when you spend your life trying to be happy, you’ll always find things that make you miserable. When you spend your life trying to make it meaningful, and trying to live out real values, you’ll find real joy and peace. There’s a big difference.
Baby Boomers, though, put their own happiness above their responsibilities. They divorced in huge numbers. They left their children, or simply ignored them by working so much. As a generation, they changed the moral fabric of our culture, erasing ideas of loyalty, honour, and commitment in favour of self-interest.
John Hughes portrayed it well, but there was a problem. He may have criticized, but he never offered a real solution. Like many of his other movies, The Breakfast Club ends with the teens sticking together, but never shows how they will break the cycle their disinterested parents started. And in the end, that makes Hughes’ movies rather dark. What’s to stop these kids from turning into their parents?
In the years since, isn’t that what we have done? We’re focused on careers, or having fun, and maybe we see our children on the weekends. Others of us are lone rangers, even if we’d rather not be. We can’t find anyone interested in real commitment. We have fewer children, fewer long-term relationships, and fewer bank accounts that are in the black. Some of us are obviously doing well, but when you look at the demographic big picture, our generation is lost.
Perhaps we need a different prophet. We don’t need to know what the problem is; we can already see it. But how do we get back to those values our grandparents and great-grandparents had? My generation needs to do more than just criticize our parents. We need to make real changes, and that’s going to take putting family first again, rediscovering faith, rejecting rampant greed, and living up to our commitments. It’s a big task, but if we embrace it on wholeheartedly, perhaps the next generation won’t need its own John Hughes to chronicle all the things we did wrong.
Here's what I took out of it. Originally I had written in the second last paragraph that one of the signs that our generation was blowing it was that our birth rate was so low. While family size is actually increasing (when families do have kids, they have more), fewer people are having children in the first place, lowering our birth rate. In other words, what is driving down the birth rate is not that people are having fewer children; it is that many women are having none at all.
We have abandoned the idea that fulfillment can be found in family, or that there is anything intrinsically good about being a parent.
I took it out because I know people who have chosen not to have children, and I felt that would be hurtful. But on a small scale, in this blog, I just want to throw it out there. Having children changes you for the better. Little things don't bother you nearly as much. You become less selfish. Life is richer. I wish people could see this.
It reminds me of a TV interview I did a few years ago on "Are Kids Worth It?". What do you think?
Labels: fertility, parenting, social issues