A similar phenomenon takes place with parents and their children. It is perfectly acceptable for me to criticize, condemn, and express disappointment with my child(ren), but should a neighbor, teacher, or even another relative find fault with the fruit of my loins, look out cause momma bear won't stand for that.
Recently this momma bear felt the need to sharpen her claws after reading an opinion piece in the November issue of Philadelphia magazine. In his Off the Cuff column, a certain D. Herbert Lipson, 81, chairman of magazine, penned what amounted to an attack on today's young adults and the parents who raised them. Lipson began by bemoaning the general state of our nation and then specifically turned his attention to:
- Occupy Wall Street/Philadelphia and the "ragtag bunch" of "perpetually unemployed"
- The "fundamental decline in our competitive spirit"
- The dismal state of our educational system as evidenced by our ranking 9th in percentage of citizens who are college graduates and 51st in science and math education
- The fact that more students major in psychology than in engineering...because engineering, or physics, or math, "requires a great deal of work." And, "That’s not something our young people are interested in."
Lipson didn't hold back when describing the future leaders of this country:
There are very few 22-year-olds—excuse me, make that 25-year-olds, because most kids don’t graduate from college in four years—who impress me as going anywhere. They seem poorly educated and unmotivated. They strike me as lazy and immature.But he made sure to share the blame:
The fault isn’t entirely theirs—we’re all responsible. Somehow, we’ve substituted coddling young people, shielding them from pain and the problems of growing up, for the real lessons of life. Our culture now insists that childhood is a time to make sure no hardship punctures the pristine bubbles in which we keep our children. No wonder they’ve become lazy and uninterested in tough challenges. The great irony is that in protecting our children—and not introducing them to the obvious idea that nothing is obtained in life without prodigious toil and hardship—we are relegating them to lives that will not be as successful or happy as ours.And most importantly, Lipson offers a solution:
They’d be much better off getting prepared for the real world instead of having a childhood of fun and games.
Okay, take a deep breath with me.
My reaction to Mr. Lipson's
- The entire Northern Ireland young adult group that came to this country a few years ago to join my church mission team working in the poorest areas of western North Carolina. Today they are in ministry, teaching, and other careers that make a difference in the lives of others.
- Neighborhood "kids" Richard, Ryder, and Bridget. Perhaps the most mature, well-rounded, intelligent young adults you ever want to meet. Richard is in his 2nd year at Swarthmore College (I don't know what he's majoring in, but even if it's not science or math related, he's going to kick butt with whatever he does), and Bridget and Ryder are in high school. And they're not just smart and respectful. They're funny, personable, and great to be around. And they made top-notch babysitters when my kids were little.
- Salim, the boy next door. We watched him grow from a smart high school kid who built his own computers, to a U of Pitt graduate in engineering and chemistry. He's currently working on his graduate degree (PhD, I think) in biomedical engineering and is employed by Pittsburgh's UMPC Artificial Heart Program. Oh, and his slacker sister is a child psychiatrist who works in war-torn countries with Doctors without Borders. How embarrassing for the family.
- Our dearly departed Cara. She was God's gift to children's ministry before she left us for the west coast. She's now in seminary in California.
- My kids' summertime babysitters. This exemplary lot included:
- Laura Jean - Newly married occupational therapist
- Kevin - Physical therapy major at Ithaca College
- Nicole - Student at Grove City College; children's ministry intern (and her brother Mike is in dental school)
Finally, I need to address one of Mr. L's concluding remarks:
They’d be much better off getting prepared for the real world instead of having a childhood of fun and games.Wow. REALLY? This is where we parents can't win. On one hand, my generation and the one before has been criticized for stressing out our kids. Expecting too much. Overscheduling them with sports, music, volunteer work. Preparing them for the Ivy League when selecting a preschool. Baby Einsteining them into the Mensa society. Now this curmudgeon suggests our children are having too much fun.
As a parent I struggle daily with what to expect from my children. How hard I should make them work. What hardships they should endure. Will my parenting make them stronger and more resiliant or push them over the proverbial edge? The last thing I need is someone at least thirty years out of parenting young children to deliver such a scathing review of the efforts we're making.
What is your reaction to Mr. Lipson's "Off the Cuff" comments?