One day I sat eating lunch with a group of friends when one girl remarked that she was worried about her grandmother becoming older. She explained that lately her mind had not been sharp and she was becoming “extremely forgetful.”
Her grandmother was only fifty.
My dad turned sixty this year.
You see, I am the child of a generation gap, meaning that if my parents had kids “when they were supposed to” those kids would already be grown and have children my age. But that’s not what happened with my parents. They got started late. I am the oldest of three sisters and my dad was forty-one when I was born.
This made my childhood different from that of my peers. I had a different social and cultural experience, not to mention a different relationship with my parents, and that is not a bad thing. Having older parents has had a positive effect on my life.
One of the side effects of having older parents is that they are more traditional at times. I would hear friends complain about how their parents just didn’t get it and were so old-fashioned. My friends did not seem able to bridge the generation gap even when there wasn’t that much difference between the two generations to begin with. A greater distance between my parents’ generation and mine has helped me to better understand older generations. I identify more with the adults with whom I interact because of the time I spend with my parents and I understand why my parents and grandparents hold the values that they do. They have traditional values that I have been expected to uphold and they desire that I act in a similar manner to how they behaved as teens.
This was not always easy, I had strict rules to follow when it came to interacting with adults, peers, and boys. But in the end, I realized that my parents were working to shape me into an upstanding member of society.
My parents’ values and social expectations were not the only opinions they held that were different from those of other families. Their taste in music, T.V. and their views on pop culture were different from my peers’ families. We listened to The Beatles and the Grateful Dead growing up, not Carrie Underwood or Selena Gomez. We watched The Andy Griffith Show and The Goonies, not Shrek or Hannah Montana.
While I enjoyed all of these things tremendously, there were times when my lacking knowledge of popular culture left me frustrated as a child. I hadn’t seen the latest episode of this show and I didn’t know any of the lyrics to that song. I was always lost in conversations. This made making friends difficult when I didn’t share any interests with my peers. Don’t get me wrong, The Beatles will always be my favorite band and I will always go for an eighties’ movie over anything else. It was only when I became a little older that I truly appreciated the culture my parents immersed me in and became glad that I could share those things with them.
Not only did the age difference between me and my parents affect our relationship, it affected our relationship with other families, as well. Most children that were my age had parents who had different life experiences than mine. Finding friendship among these other couples was difficult for my parents and this made playdates less than fun for them.
It goes the other way, too. My parents’ friends had children who were many years older than me. I did not relate with them and couldn’t have any type of camaraderie with them. This created some disconnect between us and our cohorts. But I believe that disconnect ultimately brought my family closer together.
Studies have shown that older first-time parents usually have a closer relationship with their children. A couple who waits to have children is more likely to be educated, married, and financially stable. This gives parents more time to devote to their child and allows them to become closer. By spending more time with each other and sharing a lot of the same interests, your parents become some of your closest friends.
For instance, because of our shared love of music, when I wanted to go to a concert, my dad was just as excited. Meanwhile, because my mother and I have spent so much time together she understands me like no one else can and respects who I am as a person. For me, the transition into college has been made even more difficult because I have had to leave my best friends, my family, behind. But luckily I still have their support. I have no idea what my life would be like if things had been different and we had not been able to forge such a tight, loving bond as a family.
My childhood was different from those around due to my parents’ age. These differences have helped to shape me into the person I am. My parents’ traditional values taught me how to be polite and grow into a mature adult. They introduced me to what would become my favorite parts of popular culture, and most importantly, they nurtured me in a close, loving relationship. Parents’ increasing ages do affect their children in a positive manner. Because of this, I’m glad my parents are older, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.