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America’s generation gap between baby boomers and their parents is not like today’s

By Jim Kempton

Jim Kempton. File photo

Never, when I was in high school or college, could I have imagined being (in the words of my parents) “fuddy duddy.” The generation gap was supposed to be about us and our parents, not us and our kids. We would be much too cool for that.

Of course that was before the Internet Age, which is about as revolutionary to us as the Industrial Revolution was to Apaches. No matter how good we were in our old culture we are painfully out of sync in the new one.

Take texting for instance: It is the only way to reach your kids. Call them and they never respond. Send a text and they reply instantly, even while they are driving. I saw an ad for a university that was attempting to attract students by promoting dormitory washing machines that text the student when their clothes were finished drying. This would be great of course, if any of these kids actually did their own laundry.

Here is a tip for remaining at least conversational with your kids and their friends: Never bring up a topic pre-1999. They do not care who shot J. R. They have no idea who J. R. even is. Seriously, the students who are graduating from college this June are too young to remember Iran-gate let alone Watergate. Vietnam is for them what WWII was for baby boomers. And WWI for them is like the Spanish American War for us—kind of hazy and way, way back in history.

We remember U2. They remember YouTube. We remember the Rolling Stones. They remember our kidney stones. And although my folks had no idea what Panama Red meant, at least they could work the remote. I have to get our kids to program the TiVo, the Twitter account and in some instances the iPhone. It’s hard to look cool when you are a complete techno-bozo.

I feel like a bad Bob Dylan lyric at this point:

“Come mothers and fathers from throughout the land

Don’t criticize what you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command

Your old world is rapidly changing.”

The times they are a’changin’ alright. As Dylan might say,

“You know something’s happening

But you don’t know what it is

Do you, Mr. Jones?”

Well, I have gone from being Mr. Cool to Mr. Jones. And here’s the sad part: my kids don’t even know where the Mr. Jones reference comes from. Only one of them has even listened to Bob Dylan.

One bright silver lining to this topic is the fact that my kids are now having offspring of their own. And it is a satisfying experience. They say grandchildren are God’s payback for the grey hairs our own children gave us.

Jim Kempton’s three children are the highlight of his life. They still have to program his tech instruments and he still quotes Bob Dylan when he texts them.

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