One of the best examples of what happens when our tendency to categorize and generalize runs amok is the identification of the group of people our culture calls “Millennials.” They’re imbued with certain strictly negative traits: they don’t have jobs, they don’t leave their parents’ homes, and they don’t aspire to anything. The narrative suggests that all of a sudden, an entirely new species has emerged, one with only deficiencies and no positive attributes.
Parenting is no exact science. Yet, parents often agree that our job is to help grow an adult— someone who can have satisfying relationships and enjoy delivering value in a way that fulfills them. The irony is that our parenting job is to take this being whom we cherish and adore and to teach them everything they need— so they don’t need us! Embrace them, teach them, and let them go.
Still, we tell this story about how nature got in front of us parents by dumping these defective people in our world. How did that get by us? Did they just sneak in, these terrible proto humans? Maybe they teleported here. In any case, this all just happened to us, and we parents of Millennials are now victims of these space creatures.
I don’t believe any of it. The truth is, we parents have dropped the ball. We fucked up. We didn’t do the job. We insisted on coddling our kids, forgetting completely what makes human beings strong, responsible and happy. We didn’t train adults; we trained little buddies to meet our emotional needs– like pets.
As a parent, there are two big lessons during our kids’ teen years: 1. don’t stop doing the job; and 2. let go. In my mind, the Millennial narrative is all about what happens when we parent based on fear (that we will hurt them by preparing them) instead of love.