Different but Better

“Kids are different today, I hear ev’ry mother say . . . ” —Rolling Stones, “Mother’s Little Helper”

While I’m certain the band was leading to a different conclusion from the one I’m about to reach, the sweeping assessment about children somehow being different today is a refrain often heard no matter the generation, and, of course, one often interpreted pejoratively–that kids are changing with the times and not necessarily for the better.

However, Oscar and Edgar this week reminded me that while kids may be different today, the change may be anything but unwelcome.

Cut to my car, the scene of many a fascinating conversation with my children.  Oscar has been concerned of late with what he wants to be when he grows up.  He is decisive: a marine biologist.  Nothing else will do. He checked out a book from the library to research what’s involved and the kind of living he stands to make.  He has decided that he will be nothing if not a “world-famous marine biologist.”  And in the car he deduced that this would mean–you know, with book deals and movies about his life–an ample living with plenty to spare.  And it was at that moment he said:  “You know, I probably don’t need THAT much money to live.  I think when I’m a world-famous marine biologist, I’ll donate $1,000 a month to our adoption agency.”

And last night as I read How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Edgar, he sat pensive during the scene with Cindy Lou Who.  After the Grinch got her a drink and put her to bed, Edgar sighed.  I asked him what he was thinking.  He told me he thought that this showed the Grinch had a good side.  I asked him to explain.  He said that the Grinch gave the little girl water and put her to bed.  I told him that most people see that as the Grinch trying to get her out of the way so he can continue with his diabolical plan.  He said that may be true but that he didn’t have to be so nice and the fact that he was nice means there is good in him.

I’m pretty sure when I was eight and the idea of money rolled around, my thoughts geared toward how many Barbie doll outfits I could purchase.  Philanthropy was not something that entered my covetous eight-year-old consciousness.  And in terms of character analysis . . . well, let’s just say it began and ended with my wishing I had hair like Jan Brady.  Anything deeper than that was not happening.

Kids might be different today, but I would argue they are much more aware.  And while there are assuredly two sides to this coin, the precocity with which we so often have to contend is balanced and then some by their burgeoning sense of understanding and compassion.

And if nothing gives you hope for the future, that alone should.

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