By Beverly Gadson-Birch
There are distinct differences between “old school” and “new school” or “Baby Boomers” and “Millennials”. Generations evolve over time. As an old schooler, I still iron clothes and linens. During a recent trip to Houston with my son and family, I observed several Millennial differences first hand. They don’t iron clothes. They take very little garments to the cleaners. Perhaps, this is due in part to the fabric clothes are made of that do not wrinkle as much. If we really want to take it back a notch to the “Silent Generation” of the twenties, my mom and grand mom pressed everything from slips and undershirts to bed linens. I thought that was a bit over the top.
Where am I going with this? Hold on! My son told my five-year-old grandson “come check granny out; she is ironing; she irons everything”. My grandson said, “my mommy doesn’t iron my clothes.” I said, “daddy used to iron his clothes.” He laughed. I whispered to my son, “he better be glad he isn’t with me, I would iron his play clothes”. Clothes have changed and no longer require ironing. And, let’s not forget high tech dryers with wrinkle free cycle. Since I have not mastered the art of packing, it was necessary to press and steam the wrinkles out of my clothes.
Another observation were jeans. Some folks like their jeans pressed and creased to the max while others like the rugged look. Back in the day, Baby Boomers would not be caught dead with a hole or tear in their jeans. I saw a pair of holey jeans selling for over $1,000. I try not to be critical of young folks; but, some of you may as well leave the jeans off, period. They are tore up from the floor up. If there is such a thing as “tasteful” when it comes to holey jeans, I have seen a few tastefully designed and worn. You know something is wrong when you see more thighs hanging out the holes than you see jeans. Just like one size doesn’t fit all, everyone can’t wear everything.
Christmas is right around the corner. There are more important things than wasting money on fads, nails and hair. Violence is running rampant in our communities. Drugs are destroying young lives. Children are receiving less than an adequate education. Affordable housing is not affordable. Homelessness is on the rise. Children are snatched off the streets and used as sex slaves. Black businesses are going out of business. Police killing off innocent black men. As Blacks, we must work on ways to address problems created by ineffectual parenting and a bias system. We can no longer sit back and allow Black and Brown children to receive an “adequate” education when we are living in a high-tech world. We must unite to build stronger communities.
Some of the best gifts for children are those that you put a lot of sweat equity into. I am from the old school, but I have family who are a part of the “new school” generation. So, y’all old schoolers can relate to what I am about to say. Old schoolers weren’t blessed with such abundance like today’s children. My dad would find used bicycles fix them up and repaint for Christmas. There must have been an abundance of green and silver paint back in the day because all of our bikes were green with silver trim. The only things I ever remember getting new as a kid were skates and a doll house. Even most of my clothes were hand me downs but they were cleaned and neatly pressed. Later in life, I found out that the bikes I received for Christmas were not new. They looked new because my dad put such painstaking care into making sure they looked that way. He even hung a big red bow on my bike. What a dad!! A dad who never had much for himself but made sure his children had more. A dad who grew up without a mother and father (both died before he was seven) but did not use that as an excuse for failing or abandoning his children. A dad who the world didn’t get to know but who meant the world to his children. That’s the kind of father/mother children need today. It’s not all about money. It’s investing in your children. Children need parents who will love and encourage them no matter what. Parents who aren’t afraid to be parents and not friends. Stop buying expensive presents for children that are failing in school, children without manners, children who constantly get into trouble and children who threaten you in your own home. It’s not about the big things. It’s about the things that do not cost money. Children will remember the smaller things you do forever.
Y’all can say what you want about “old schoolers” but you can’t fool “old schoolers”. Old schoolers know a thing or two about raising children. Why da’ heck you gonna’ buy Johnny an Apple phone when he can’t even spell Apple. Johnny needs some books. Develop a loving relationship with your child. Visit your child’s school. Be there for their performances and games. While it may be a season for giving gifts, the best gift you can give your child is TIME. It is time to stop wasting money on holey, holey, holey jeans and start investing wholly, wholly, wholly into your children, school and community. I know y’all didn’t ask me, but are y’all listening?
(Writer’s Note: While working on this article for two days, two murders occurred—one at West Ashley Chuck E. Cheese’s and the other on East Surrey Street off Dorchester Road)