Will both generations, parents and grandparents, become involved in the weekly discussions of family?
This question occurred to me as I was enjoying yesterday’s debut of Dear Family Whisperer, now a weekly column on the Huffington Post. The first three installments were “published” on this site. I had asked Tracy’s fans (members of the online forum she launched a decade ago) if they would help me launch a Dear-Abby-type column about family issues, and they came up with great questions. Mothers in the thick of hands-on parenting–in their 30s, 40s, and 50s–they want answers about sibling rivalry, what to do when a parent is physically or mentally ill, how to resolve couple differences about parenting practices, how to tame a mother-in-law.
Now that Dear Family Whisperer is visible to a larger audience, I wonder who will metaphorically raise their hands and what will they ask about? I hope that older parents will join the conversation. One might ask about a daughter-in-law who restricts access to the grandchildren. Another might question how to approach an adult son who doesn’t seem as worried about his child’s–her grandchild’s–stutter as she is.
But if these “elders”–my generation–show up with their questions, how will the younger generation of parents–my children’s peers–feel? Is Facebook a cautionary tale? The moment parents and grandparents began to poke them and comment on their photos, teens and twentysomethings declared Facebook over. Born into digital technology, the “natives” didn’t want to hang out at the water cooler with newcomers. Will young parents on the front line also resent their parents’ perspective about family?
Then again, family whispering is not a place–it’s an idea, a practice, a set of beliefs and principals. And today’s parents and grandparents, especially the women, have more in common than generations past. My daughter and I dubbed the phenomenon generation overlap. We share books, workouts, and gynecologists. We like the same music–or at least are open to the other’s tastes. We buy at the same stores, like the same restaurants, give each other workout and diet tips. And I know if we let ourselves, we’ll also find common ground in family whispering, which, after all, includes multiple generations and a complicated mix of relationships.
When we’re curious and we keep asking questions, we learn from each other. And when it comes to family, we all have a lot to learn.