The Next Generation Gap
For a Storyteller, I’ve been rather, well, quiet. Sometimes, you’re too busy living a story to tell it – and that’s been the case for me over the last month. As I mentioned in my last post, I was an expectant father. I am expectant no longer – and have a beautiful baby daughter, who has been hard at work turning our lives upside down for the past three weeks or so. I’m slightly alarmed at how much she’s eaten away my free time, the space a volunteer project like a TEDx conference lives in. She is, however, finally asleep (one change of nappy, and of babygrow, later than expected…) and I’m finally finishing off and posting this entry, which I had planned to get up yesterday. It seems rather lame to blame a child not even a month old for my own tardiness, but it is the truth. How can something so tiny – and so uncommunicative – be so fascinating?
Never mind. Better late than never, and it seems appropriate that as we explore ideas of generation in this conference that a brand new member of the newest generation should join us. On a personal level, it brings the theme of the generation gap a little closer too me. You see, for several years, I was part of a family that lacked any generation gap.
My immediate family was, for a while, mono-generational. My parents and my sole surviving grandparent all passed away in the first decade of this century, leaving my brother and I the only generation of our direct descent. There was no-one alive above us, no-one born below us. There was no generation gap to be had – because there weren’t enough generations. This decade, that has changed. I have a nephew, and a daughter. And they’re both children who are part of a multi-generation family, through the maternal sides. One of them even has a great-grandparent still alive.
The experience of parenthood has, for me at least, transformed my experience of my own generation. I “get” what friends and family have said about the way you feel about your own child. More significantly – and rather too late for it to do our relationship any good – I understand what my mother and father did, and felt better. I have a visceral perspective on the relationship between generations that I never had before, and I can’t use that as a way of closing the generation gap.
Perhaps that’s our challenge – in the conference, in our relationships – to find ways of closing these generation gaps before the become too big, to wide and, finally, too established by the inevitability of death.
Let’s not dwell on that. A new birth is a happy, if distressingly painful, thing. (I had, rather naively, said to my wife while she was pregnant that I wished I could go through that process for her. Half way through labour, I found myself thinking “actually, I’m pretty glad it’s not me going through that…”. Nature is cruel, sometimes.) While a new potential gap exists – between my daughter and I – old gaps are closing up. My relationship with my mother-in-law has changed already, the older generations drawing together to support the newer one. Even my sister-in-law’s mother – a relationship I don’t even think there’s a formal term for – has pitched in to assist.
Generations can unite us, as well as separate us. We may express our love for ideas, for lifestyles, for a tiny little girl, in different ways. But if we can find that point of agreement, of a passion shared, then those gaps start to look more trivial than we thought.