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Pick of the Week! 3/16/98

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Boomers - Can We Jive In the Hives of Generation X?

By Linda M. Sittler

Okay, we baby boomers can’t expect life with our grown children—the Generation Xers—to be the same today as it was when they were little.

I am a parent and a teacher who has studied human behavior, so I am well aware of the changes that take place in relationships as a child grows into an adult. However, I still can’t fathom why my latest visit with my 26-year-old daughter only lasted about 10 minutes before the fireworks started flying.

My husband and I had just touched down at Dulles Airport from a 10-day trip to Crete and we were mighty jet-lagged. Since it was a Friday afternoon at around 5 p.m., we knew the rush hour traffic would have us sitting bumper-to-bumper for hours before we ever got back to our home on the other side of the Beltway.

So, on the spur-of-the moment, we decide to call our Generation X daughter to ask if we can “hang out” in her northern Virginia condo until rush hour is over.

“Sure,” she answers flatly and with a hint of disgust rather than enthusiasm.

I am thinking, “She doesn’t sound too happy to hear we’re back. Isn’t she the least bit glad that we weren’t abducted by terrorists? Not!”

Thus, bone-tired from our exhausting trip, we muster up enough stamina to spend a few “precious” moments with our lovely daughter, Bambi, before heading home.

She greets us at the door with, “What are you doing here? Didn’t you just come from Greece? I just got home from work. I’m so tired.”

“Well, the traffic is too bad to drive home right now,” I repeat. (I had already explained this from the airport, but I guess she’d forgotten.)

So we walk into Bambi’s condo with a wrapped Grecian urn. I decide to hold onto it and wait for just the right moment to present her with the lovely souvenir.

Bambi does not invite us to sit down; but we know where the couch is, so we manage to grope our way toward it. She sits at the dining room table facing us (it is the only other place to sit in her condo).

From the look on her face, I can tell that she is about to say something important.

Guarding her words and pausing every couple of syllables, she carefully begins, “ know…I’ve been thinking….about my…wedding plans. I want to get married next June.”

“Yes, you mentioned that. We’ll have to work on it now that your dad and I are back.”

“But…a…if you wait… too long….you won’t get a place.”

“Fine. We’ll decide something soon.”

“But…I…we…put a …deposit on…that place I told you about.”

“Oh no,” I gasp. “Didn’t we say that your father wanted to see it first? Is it that old mansion without air conditioning in the dining room?” I ask, suddenly feeling stressed and dizzy for lack of sleep.

“Bambi, I know it’s your wedding, but some things are an absolute must. You need air conditioning around here in June.”

“Don’t you think I thought about that? The mansion has a lot of small rooms with air conditioning. Guests can walk around—they don’t have to stay at their tables.”

“But Bambi,” I say, now feeling extreme jet-lag, “What about the older people. They can’t walk from room to room. They’ll stay at their tables and fry in their seats.”

“I told you, I thought about everything. It’s my wedding and I’ll do what I want.”

Barely able to keep my eyes open, I am nevertheless quietly relentless on this issue, believing that air conditioning is the one non-negotiable part of any Maryland summer wedding.

“Bambi, can’t we call the place and see if they can put the dining tables in another room incase of sweltering heat?”

My Generation Xer has now decided that she has had quite enough of her deliriously jet-lagged boomer parent. “Look, all I want to do is to get married. Why do you have to make a federal case out of this?”

Then she looks at me with daggers and screams angrily, “You’ve worn out your welcome. There’s only one queen bee around here! Get out! Get out!”

On hearing Bambi’s shout, her father, who had been nodding off comfortably, now startles and shouts back even louder than his grown child. “Come on, Linda. Let’s get out of here. We’re obviously not welcome.”

And within minutes of arriving, even though we hadn’t seen our daughter in more than a month, we are kicked out of our Gen Xer’s home.

Adding salt to the wound, she yells down the hall loud enough for all the neighbors to witness our “lovely family moment.” “And don’t come back until you can stay out of my business.”

Needless to say, we never got around to giving her the Grecian urn.

As we drive back to Maryland in heavy traffic, Bambi’s father predicts, “Well, we won’t be seeing her for a very long time. I don’t think she wants us to help with her wedding.”

Gee, how did he come up with such a brilliant deduction, I am wondering. What a smart guy I married!

Having not slept for one full day, I am feeling lightheaded, punchy and stunned at what has just happened, hardly finding it real. I barely had enough stamina to visit my daughter and engage in quiet conversation without having had the energy to pick a big fight.

Why had my low-key persistence incurred such strong emotions and absolute rage from my grown daughter?

I’m sure the answer lies in her remark about being “the only queen bee.” My Gen Xer was now “queen bee” of her world. As such she felt threatened by the advice of the older (and wiser?) former queen bee.

Even though my words were not angry, even though my argument made sense (or maybe because it did), this boomer queen bee had flown straight into the new queen’s turf and she meant to make me “buzz off.”

She was in charge of her life now. The details of her wedding were up to her, boomer parents only paid for it, and all comments from me (now in the backseat “peanut gallery”) were greatly unappreciated.

Incidentally, the next morning, after my daughter got over her PMS fit (something I myself will never miss), she called to apologize to the old, life-giving queen bee of her childhood hive. But that doesn’t mean she is willing to compromise about air conditioning.

I’m still worried about not having air at her wedding, but that’s her choice—not mine.

As far as I’m concerned, I think I’ll “buzz off”and perhaps take another trip, while life still tastes sweet and my wings can still fly.

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