It’s a force to be reckoned with. Twenty five percent of the US population, 70 million youngsters born between 1977 to 1997 – Generation Y. Or fondly referred to as Generation Y-Not. They are the closest in population size to the 75 million Baby Boomers, thus referred to as Echo Boomers and are receiving a lot of scrutiny, study, and analysis. They are lurking, waiting to take over the universe and experts are trying to predict what we have in store once we adults are…… demoted.
Personally, it’s a force to be reckoned with in my life. I have four Y-Not ’ers. My own little case study, Y-lab petri dish, growing right under my nose. I am a Baby Boomer raising four Echo Boomers. So what does that mean or matter when it gets right down to where I really live? In a few ways it matters, in other ways it has no bearing whatsoever.
When it comes to eating, there are two key differences I see on the backdrop of my childhood experience. These are my general observations and test findings as I have conducted my own, homegrown Gen-Y lab.
Here is one lifelong, profound principle I was raised on, one that is worth noting – a good snapshot of the generational contrast:
Never ask for a candy bar in the grocery store line.
Not an option, no way, no how. Candy bars cost a mere quarter and my Mom would say NO every time. No room in her grocery budget and I have zero memory of her ever relenting. We never wasted our breath, whined, or gave it a thought. Her budget was so tight and inflexible and in spite she worked wonders. If she needed one apple for a recipe, she bought one apple, not two, or any extra for ‘healthy snacking’. I never felt deprived or even out of the ordinary. In my mind, we had all we needed, lots of love, food, and life flowing out of our home. My cup was full (but not with Pepsi mind you).
Less than one hour ago I took my youngest Y, born in 1997, to Walgreen’s to get medicine. On the way out she saw a bag of Cadbury chocolate eggs and started drooling in public. I started drooling too, and guess what? I bought them and we ate them in the car. The reality is, as a child I had no clue what I was missing every time I breezed past the Cadbury eggs in the store with my mom. I was perfectly fine. Obviously now, I have no problem with a mouth watering indulgence, and I do savor all of my fun blessings, but teaching my kids contentment as a part of an overindulged generation takes extra effort.
Most moms I know now work, in some capacity, myself included. When I grew up, my mom stayed at home and clearly chose instead to absorb the stress of barely having enough to make ends meet. I also only recall one or two other moms that worked at all outside of their home. Fast forward to today, with both parents working and more disposable income than previous generations, this generation has grown up with a heightened level of affluence that has erased much of the ability to “appreciate” what is afforded them.
Yes, generation Y gets the candy bar in the grocery store line and eating out is not an occasion but a habit. A “Happy Meal” was primo fast food for me as a child but is now beneath Gen Y ‘ers. Their pallets are much more refined, yet I didn’t know what a “pallet” was until I was grown. Kids turn packages over to read the nutrition content and enjoy gourmet, organic, and vegetarian options. “Don’t be a food snob!” you may hear me bark to my kids. “Go fix a PB&J for crying out loud!”
No doubt, the culture of this age group does have its influence, but are our kids doomed to the pitfalls of their own generation? No. I am a firm believer in “home-grown kids” – that what happens in their own laboratory at home will grow the core substance of who they are and who they become. Every generation mirrors it’s own unique pitfall, as well as strengths. It is sound wisdom and good parenting, passed down through the testing fire of thousands of generations, which still makes for healthy, and grateful, kids.
Thanks to my mom, her wisdom and steady hand, I know better. With her slim budget, 5 hungry kids, a Preacher-Husband, and lots of hospitality, food appeared in plenty. Good food too. And we were grateful. How she multiplied the fish and loaves of bread in her very own kitchen could be squeezed right into the New Testament. And to note, I never needed counseling for not being allowed to syphon sugar into my veins through a Snickers bar, believe me, I found other ways.
Today, my kids love sushi and may get that candy bar at the grocery store, but in other ways I have carried the torch passed by my mom. When it comes to dinnertime there are 2 options for my kids: take it or leave it. This does more than just simplify dinner, it sends a message about character to my kids we all need to hear over and over: Be grateful, appreciate what you have been given, and don’t approach your life through the prism of self-interest and self-indulgence. These are daily challenges, not just at the dinner table, but steady ingredients to stir into every aspect of living and what will feed our kids for life.
Here’s to the spirit of the law, and sometimes, yes, the letter of the law. Along with me, recycle those generational ingredients carried forward to you, the very time tested ingredients that made the very best of who you are today.
Y not? I ask.
My mom would say, “Because I said so!”