Kids Today, I Tellya…

Our youth love luxury. They have bad manners and contempt for authority. They show disrespect for their elders and love idle chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants not the servants of the household. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers.

—attributed to Socrates, c. 450 BC

It’s a good thing we have written records of this bit of conventional wisdom. Otherwise, each generation might be tempted to believe no one ever thought of it before. Here is a partial list of the things that might draw me into it:

  • tattoos
  • piercings
  • Top 40 radio
  • celebrity culture
  • iPods
  • MySpace
  • mouth breathers

I deleted a few things from the list before publishing this post, because despite my intention to write this with a cool head and a broad perspective I was really getting worked up. (Have you seen the way some kids dress? Have you listened to the crap on the radio?) It’s just so damned easy to criticize kids and to forget that many of the irritating things they do are done specifically for the purpose of irritating people like me. This is how it has always been and how it probably should be.

These days I’m having a pretty good time on the “older generation” side of things, but I also had some fun when I was on the “younger generation” side. For example, I remember arguing with my grandfather about safe driving. This was in 1963 or 1964. Gramp was about 83, and I was about 17.

The argument was about whether old timers or teens were worse drivers. I knew that Gramp, when cornered, would instinctively manufacture evidence to support his position, and he didn’t disappoint. On this particular occasion, he pulled a statistic out of thin air and announced that teenage drivers had twice as many accidents as drivers over 65.

So, that’s how it’s going to be, I thought. Inspiration struck, and I was ready for him with a made up stat of my own.

“Of course we do,” I said, “There are twice as many of us!”

It stopped him cold. “There are?” he asked.

Victory was mine, but I couldn’t keep a straight face. Before long, Gramp couldn’t either. We had caught each other in similar lies at precisely the same moment. He was badly crippled by arthritis by this point in his life, but he extended his hand and I shook it. Man to man.

It was the best moment with him I ever had.

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