I watched coverage of this year’s White House Easter egg roll with a certain amount of foreboding, waiting for one of the television correspondents to report Secret Service snipers firing warning shots at the helicopter parents who were fighting over the eggs.
Of course, the national terrorist threat level hadn’t been raised since the city of Colorado Springs cancelled its Easter Egg hunt in March for the same reason, so I guess I should have kept eating my matzah and chilled with a nice glass of Magen David.
Growing up in Flint in the 1960s, there weren’t a lot of parents hovering over their kids in our neighborhood. Most moms were stay-at-home; the kids went to school within walking distance, came home and played together in the street until the dads came home from work. Kids settled their disputes as they arose without parental interference.
Those lucky enough to have the athletic skills to play football, baseball and/or basketball were encouraged to join school teams. Otherwise, you played in a field, on the street or in a driveway in street clothes.
Sure, I had a nice fading jump shot in basketball, as long as you didn’t cover me and gave me the necessary four seconds to get the shot off, but I knew early that I sucked at sports.
So, I was a bit startled when a story ran on 60 Minutes last year on helicopter parents and their children, referred to as Millennials.
These precocious children joined teams at an early age, wore expensive uniforms, used expensive equipment and, no matter how much they sucked, every member of every team received the same-sized trophy, just for showing up. Every child was special, constantly protected by their parents, who were involved in every aspect of their children’s lives.
The segment showed human resource professionals across the country attending seminars on how to best handle these incoming graduates. How to keep them working, keep them happy and keep them from leaving the company after all that money was spent to train them. I felt sorry for some of them, especially the ones who said that some parents of these Millennial employees would contact them to demand salary increases.
I’m not a psychologist, but I do understand that the world is vastly more complex than it was almost a half-century ago, and helicopter parents hover over their flock to give them a better chance in an increasingly competitive world. But they have to pick their battles. An Easter egg hunt is not a good place to hover. Contacting a teacher when your child’s grades are falling is considered being a good parent. Contacting your kid’s employer to get him a raise, when your kid is a 22-year-old college graduate, is being a ____ (fill in your own swear word.)
I understand that technology plays a huge role, too. I didn’t have a computer until the mid-1990s. Millennials were born in a computer-based world and use them as easily as toasters.
Facebook and other social media allow people to become self-centered. Is an event worth photographing without the picture-taker’s face and upper arm included in the shot?
I’m thinking of pitching a television series to Hollywood about a man who can’t escape precocious Millennial teens no matter where he goes. Driving his car down the street, he gets cut off by a kid driving and texting. Buying a shirt at a store, he pays cash to a Millennial, and receives seven dimes and three pennies when the register is filled with quarters. Sitting at a table in a diner, a group of Millennials enter and spontaneously burst into song — off-key but awesome to themselves, of course — and sends the man running away from the store. I’ll call it Flee.