Monday, June 23, 2008

They're Calling it Generation I: But Does The 'I' Stand for "Internet" or "Id"?!

Last you heard from me I was happily typing away at the Fort Lauderdale Airport, awaiting my flight to Providence. We finally boarded the plane three hours late, and by that point the young kids who'd been waiting in the terminal for more than four hours were either fast asleep or in the beginning stages of Category Five meltdowns (those of you who are parents are familiar with Cat V meltdowns; those of you who are not, I'd advise witnessing one in real time as the most effective form of birth control).

We board without problems; everyone finds a seat. In my general vicinity is apparently a family of seven: Two sets of grandparents, a mother, a father, and what appears to be a four or five year old boy. Everyone's attention is focused on the boy: What he's doing (bouncing up and down in his seat--which thankfully is not in front of mine); what he's eating (cheerios, apparently, as one lands in my lap from his flinging them about the cabin); and what he's saying (as far as I can tell--and I am conversant in toddler talk--he's screeching about Elmo).

The grandparents and the parents are doing nothing to stop the kid from bouncing, flinging O's and screeching about Elmo. In fact, they're doting on him, which serves to encourage him to bigger bounces, more vigorous O-throwing, and louder screeches. Of course, the bouncing stops when he hits his head on the bulkhead and starts wailing at the top of his lungs.

This, my friends, is a classic Cat V Meltdown. The mother--seated by the window in my row--calms him down a bit by plugging him into a DVD. But the DVD was merely the eye of the storm. The brat isn't done--no, not by a long shot. He refuses to wear the headphones. The grandparents and the parents transfer the kid from lap to lap, trying without success to get him to put on the earphones.

They give up and decide that rather than insist the child put on the earphones or not watch the DVD, they'll subject the entire area to the Elmo DVD. Mind you, this is after a three+ hour delay and on a full plane flying through turbulence.

My questions:
* Since when is a four-year-old brat in charge of SIX ADULTS?
* Since when does a four-year-old brat have the ability to hold a plane hostage?
* Since when has it become acceptable for adults to subsume the needs and desires of a community to the needs of a spoiled child?

While I understand it may be easier to rely on the indulgence and understanding of strangers rather than risk another catastrophic meltdown, the scenario perfectly explains why the kids of Generation I are growing up to believe that everything centers around their needs and desires.

Rather than describe them as Generation I (as in Internet--that is, the first generation that has grown up fully integrated with the web), perhaps we may want to call them Generation Id--as in, the generation reared to believe that it's ok to be ruled by your id.

The id, you'll recall, is responsible for basic drives such as food, sex, and aggressive impulses. It is amoral and egocentric, ruled by the pleasure–pain principle; it is without a sense of time, completely illogical, primarily sexual, infantile in its emotional development, and will not take "no" for an answer.

I am not a perfect parent. I'm probably average. But I can damn for sure tell you that my daughter would either have worn the earphones or not listened to the DVD. Discovering that the world does not revolve around him or her is one of the earliest and most profound lessons a child learns--withhold the lesson and you render the child a disservice. You foster the Id and indulge the I.

1 comment:

Leo Bottary said...

There's nothing quite like witnessing parent child negotiations in their full splendor. It makes me happy that most of these parents don't work for the State Department, although now that I think of it, some of them just might.