When chatting with others, do you ever struggle to feel “in the know”? This is how I’ve been feeling about my place in society lately. The world is changing, and I don’t want to be left behind.
My daughters do their best in their quest to keep me current, albeit not without eye rolls. When my husband died, leaving me a single mother, it was more of a challenge to stay current with news and culture, but once the kids had earphones, I was free to listen to NPR or escape with a best seller. I disavowed those “when-I-was-your-age” admonitions, but I had many occasions when I recognized their world was very different from the one in which I grew up. I enjoyed my kids’ music, in contrast with the arguments I had with my parents about the hippie sounds of the lawless, morality-free ʼ60s.
I could count on my daughters to help me with technology. “How many times do I have to show you…” came from the child, not the parent. (Really? I taught you how to use a spoon.) As they grew older, more changes became harder for me to process, not the least of which revolved around appropriate attire. Did they miss the lesson on modesty, or did I miss the lesson on freedom of expression? I couldn’t keep up.
One daughter had a beau over for a movie and make-out. I felt compelled to remind them I was in the house, party pooper that I am. The young man was African American, and I was caught in thoughts about how far we’ve come. I told her that young Black men were lynched for less when I was in high school in the ʼ70s, and my daughter was shocked to realize just how recently mind-sets have changed. On this matter, I can say I have kept up.
A decade ago, my 14-year-old daughter asked me if she could get her belly button pierced and I agreed. I was vilified by many. Today I have friends who accompany their kids to get matching tattoos. I’m trying to keep up.
I experience challenges around language that I hope to overcome. I’ve had a lifetime of using terms that I now know to be offensive to others. I accidentally asked a new high school grad if they felt “gypped” out of their rites of passage by COVID. I caught it and apologized. When I was rebuked by my daughter for saying “lame excuse,” I was taken to task: refrain from ableist language. Not quite there yet.
I may not master current practices, but I do want to stay relevant and, of course, respectful, and that’s going to take some open-mindedness and gentle reminders. But let it be known that I am determined to keep up.