Baby boomers’ relationships with our kids have changed

The pages of BoomerCafé have been filled over the years with stories about the life-altering changes that we baby boomers have seen, from the days when we were children, to the days when our own children are moving independently through this world. But author Marianne C. Bohr of Bethesda, Maryland, writes about something we haven’t had on these pages before now: the change in the relationship between them, and us.

My family of four is scattered all over the world right now. When I click on the app “Find My Friends” on my iPhone, the entire globe has to fill the screen before I can see all our faces.

I’m burning the home fires in Bethesda, Maryland; my husband is in Augsburg, Germany on business; my son is where he resides in Los Angeles; and my daughter has left the San Francisco Bay Area for a two-week solo getaway to Thailand.

Marianne gets a playful kiss from her children during a holiday in Ireland.

Marianne gets a playful kiss from her children during a holiday in Ireland.

For now, the four of us inhabit, very literally, disparate corners of the world. But despite our peripatetic lives, we’re in contact often, with emails, amusing texts, and FaceTime chats — brief but important touches that bridge the distance and strengthen our emotional bond. It fortifies our family cohesion when we share what we’re doing, accompanied by daily tidbits that say I love you, I miss you, I’m thinking about you. This frequent, heartfelt communication has me thinking.

Marianne C. Bohr

Marianne C. Bohr

Is it just the four of us connecting differently and more often than I ever did with my family when I was growing up? Or is it the communication tools at our ready that compel us to use them? For me, without a doubt, it’s the former. My grown children are my companions and confidantes in ways I never was nor ever will be with my parents. My strict Catholic upbringing required children to listen and not be heard, to obey and not to question. Parents retained the upper hand and their offspring, no matter their age, were expected to nod and comply.

No, I’m afraid that even if we had email and smart phones, texting and iChatting in the sixties and seventies, my parents’ communication with their offspring, and that of many of their generation, would have remained top down, transactional, measured. No sharing of silly emoticons or inside jokes. No quotidian questions because they didn’t really understand or even want the details of what we did day-to-day. In our relationships. In our jobs. With our friends. The gap between parent and child — the chasm in my case — was never to be crossed. It’s just how they thought good parents should be.

Marianne's husband (right) with their children at Shannon Airport in Ireland.

Marianne’s husband (right) with their children at Shannon Airport in Ireland.

But in my husband’s and my home, the mark that initially divided youngster and grown-up effortlessly blurred like a line on the beach as my children grew into young adults. I’m certain that in many families, the gulf between generations persists. But from what I see and experience in my world, parents and children not only relate and converse in meaningful ways, they actually enjoy each other’s company, even if spending time together means foregoing time with peers.

Brother and sister traveling.

Brother and sister traveling.

And if our interaction isn’t sufficient proof of intergenerational solidarity, think about this: our children even revel in our music — the Beatles, the Eagles, the Stones, Billy Joel. For all of this, I’m so very grateful.

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3 Comments on "Baby boomers’ relationships with our kids have changed"

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Claude Forthomme
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Great piece, thanks! Yes, I’m always surprised how our kids love music from the 60’s and 70’s…almost as much as we do! In return, I try to make an effort and learn to love their music – and quite often, I’m rewarded (I love Adele!) This said, my own upbringing was very different from yours: I guess I was lucky, my parents always felt that the right relationship with their child (I don’t have siblings, alas) was based on open friendship. They were always there as supporters one could confide in, but they never intruded and let me live my… Read more »
Larry Checco
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Insightful post, Marianne. I, too, was raised in a Catholic household, so I know from whence you come. Difficult to self actualize in such an environment. But it seems you have–and I have, as well. Cheers!

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt
Guest

You are so right.

I am related to people all over the world – stationary in many countries – plus the moving ones, and I’m acquiring friends online through my blogs and fiction. A quick email or comment or text – and we’re in contact.

The world is much smaller than it use to be – and the relationships stronger.

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