Copyright © 1997 Henrietta W. Hay
Kids and Parents: Getting Acquainted?
April 9, 1992
On my 78th birthday at 10 o'clock at night I found myself on the top of
Loveland Pass in a light spring coat, shushing through the snow with my
number two son trying to find the exact spot from which he saw some
bighorn sheep when he was a little boy. Nostalgia is great - but I'm
too old for it.
My old pal Webster says that nostalgia means "a longing to go back to
one's home...longing for something far away or long ago." It is my
distinct impression that the baby boomers, are more nostalgic than their
parents. We parents are so involved in figuring out what kind of adults
our kids are turning out to be and in worrying about them, that we don't
spend very much time waxing nostalgic. But somewhat to my surprise,
they still do.
As our kids grow up and leave home, it is hard for us to see them as
adults in their own world and it is even harder for them to see us as
whole people who existed before they did. We knew them best as children
and they knew us only as adults. However close we may be to our
offspring, these big holes in our knowledge of each other keep the
generation gap from closing completely, which is probably a good thing.
Fortunately, even though we all know our roles and usually play them,
there are still a few wonderful surprises and some great moments. One
of those was my journey to the top of the pass.
It was part of a week-end I spent with my Texas son who was speaking at
a professional meeting in Keystone. In addition to just being with him
for a few hours and catching up on the news, I was trying to find out
what he does for a living. "Does data modeling for computer systems,"
is a bit esoteric for people in my generation.
It is not often that we get to see our children on their own turf. But
here was this scruffy little kid with mussed up hair, now very much the
adult, lecturing to a group of learned people on a learned subject.
Now that's the sort of stuff that keeps parents going, although I must
admit that I still don't know exactly what he does for a living.
At that point, however, when I had made the leap to seeing him as an
adult among his peers, his "child" emerged. He wanted to stand on the
top of his favorite mountain pass and hunt for sheep in the starlight.
Parenthood is a very confusing business.
Of course, being somebody's kid is confusing, too. Recently I happened
onto the "Rappin' Granny" on TV. She and her son were demonstrating
and discussing a video they made together. Granny was really rappin'
and doing a few moves that startled her son. He admitted that the first
time he watched her he could not believe that his mother could do stuff
like that. After all, his mother had no life before him. Where did she
I have a lot of trouble trying to visualize my parents as young,
rambunctious college kids in Illinois and as young marrieds moving way
out west to Colorado where they were sure there were still Indians in
the streets. And every now and then my kids are surprised to discover
something about my youth that they had not been aware of. Oh well,
what they don't know won't hurt 'em.
Mostly both generations go along being ourselves and really trying to
understand each other. But just as we like to surprise our kids now and
then, so sometimes they like to surprise us by letting us have a look at
what they have become. It was beautiful on the pass even though I
nearly froze. He is sure he found the spot he was looking for. The gap
very nearly closed.
I feel even better about his adult self knowing that the child self is