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Opinion November 2017

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Generation Bubble Wrap

By Anne Ashley

I endured an entire childhood without ever once wearing a protective helmet or floatation devices for any activity – indoors or out. I even survived after eating food without washing my hands in antibacterial soaps (or any soap, for that matter).

The fact that my generation has had its day in the sun is of no consequence to me. As I've mentioned before, I kinda like hovering under the marketable radar. Not only did I get along before the and the growing and alarming number of ways to communicate remotely.... (Incidentally, has it occurred to anyone else that if you can monitor the interior of your home while you're away, so can anyone else with a modicum of hacking abilities? Furthermore, if you can give a voice command to a wireless transistor positioned in your home that replies to your quirkiest of queries or resolves your craziest of conundrums, isn’t it just as possible – nay, probable – that it’s a two-way exchange and you can also be listened in on by some remote body? – just a thought.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I was hovering under the spreading chestnut anecdotal tree … but I endured an entire childhood without ever once wearing a protective helmet or floatation devices for any activity – indoors or out. I even survived after eating food without washing my hands in antibacterial soaps (or any soap, for that matter). My parents cared deeply about our welfare and insisted we did too – but they didn’t cover us in bubble wrap and then expect us to know what to do if we failed as adults.

In fact, my father was the archetypical dad of the ‘50s and allowed us to touch the hot plates, bang our heads on a solid surface or fall off our bikes if we failed to follow his one and only paternal warning. Also, to my knowledge, my parents never threatened to sue the parents of anyone who picked on us or beat us up. Quite the opposite, if we came home disheveled and bruised from an altercation, we were threatened with another hiding if we hadn’t fought back.  And you don’t even want to know how my siblings and I learned to swim!

And I'm better for it.

Anyway, I'm going a long way around getting to my point which is that there is practically nothing relatable from my childhood to this generation’s. One such glaring example is the way today’s youth eats. It’s a small thing, granted but nevertheless, it’s a telling thing. While dining out with HRH (His Royal Highness, the husband) just recently, I was appalled to witness a young teen reaching over and grabbing food off the plate the waiter was still balancing on his arm as he placed other plates in front of the family.

Worse, the imp continued to eat from this plate until it was in front of him and never once used his knife or fork. Just typing these words makes me wince with the thought of how this behavior would have been dealt with by either of my parents. We didn’t eat out much in the olden days but when we did, not one of us 5 children would have so much as hiccupped at the table without profuse apologies. Had one of us lost our minds enough to reach for food before it was officially ours, my father would have reminded us what it felt like for our heads to collide with a solid surface!

Parenthetically, our parents taught us table manners the same way they taught us everything else. Our indiscretions at the dinner table were met with disappointed silence and our food being taken away from us – no matter that it was a full plate. The soundless but effective message was, hopefully you’ll do better next time. We were left to figure out our impudence without further guidance. Very quickly we all decided that mealtime was not playtime. These life lessons applied to our schooldays too. Far from being allowed to fail or disrupt a class, had the principal complained to our parents about our behavior, I can speak from experience that the principal’s admonishments would have been the least of our worries.

Not only did this ill-mannered youth ignore the most basic rules of eating in public by talking with his mouth full, reaching across other family members to grab something and kicking the table leg throughout the entire dinner but all this apparently without the least concern from his parents. Both parents. Sitting right in front of him. It was like a car crash that I just couldn’t look away from, no matter how unpleasant it was to watch.

Today’s toadying to fragile egos by allowing children to exist in well-cushioned bubbles or nonexistent boundaries will only create entitled adults who haven’t got a clue how to accomplish anything.  

But perhaps it’s of no consequence to handicap your child by not preparing them to manage rudimentary responsibilities and comportments. I mean, what value are table manners when their futures are controlled by automated apparatuses that assist with inane queries or their entire households run from a keypad somewhere far, far away.  Who needs table manners when only virtual tables exist? Who needs personal growth when you can command a wireless gadget to change the music you're listening to – because apparently, reaching over is now sooooo yesteryear!


Be sure to follow me on twitter@anneashley57.

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