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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This story originally appears on BoomerCafe.com in February 2016.