Posts Tagged ‘latchkey’

Time Counter

3 January 2011

Dear J-

The day starts off early in the dark, with the night broken into two parts: before the small-hour feeding, and after. I figured out I’m getting roughly half the sleep during weekdays that I do on weekends — where I get to sleep before and after that meal, when I go to work it functions nicely as a wake-up call to start getting ready. So I’m up. With the return to work comes a complete absence of news in my life — current affairs fall by the wayside as my Google Reader is loaded up with technology junk, sports, and comics rather than erudite talk of current events and world headlines.

There was a time — in school — I would avidly read the newspapers, first for Mr. Larson’s current events quizzes and then as an escape from the grind of studying, once I figured out my parents didn’t consider newspaper reading as egregious a break from schoolwork as reading fiction. It would set the tone in college, where I’d be the first one to pick up the paper from the front porch, bring it in, and sit down with a bowl of cereal before setting off to do battle with 8AM classes. Grad school changed that with a fight theVet and I had, resulting in me storming out to catch the first bus to Cambridge and missing out on the whole breakfast routine. Eventually the papers were retrieved only as a matter of appearance; they’d sit piled up next to my front door as a reminder of things to do, stories to catch up on when there was more time than now.

It always seems to come back down to the luxuries of time, where and how you spend it, what to do with the hours you earn. The rise of helicopter parents* exaggerates the virtue of spending all day every day as a family, but perhaps that’s my own guilt speaking at sneaking off for a few minutes break a few times a day. It is breathtakingly daunting at times, the endless well of come-here-do-this but I need to remember how short this time is, before school, and all we have are weekends and holidays which works out to a grand total of, let’s see, 48 hours minus 16 times 50 or so is 1600 hours a year quality waking time I have available to spend — it sounds like a lot, but you give up 2080 hours to a full-time job and 2500 hours to sleep or so. How are you spending your budget these days?


* Helicopter parents hovering over their children at every moment I think is a bit of a reaction to the latchkey generation I grew up in with both parents extending benign neglect through full-time jobs and kids with keys gradually vowing to not repeat those lessons. It has extreme results, as seen at the La Jolla park we went to yesterday, where there were nearly as many parents as kids on the playground equipment, trailing along and ready to steady a wobbly walker.


Key Note

4 August 2009

Dear J-

Every time I pull my keys out I flash back a little to when I got my first key to the house — it came in its own little leather wallet (this kept it from rattling around and alerting everyone that I had a key, and I was five kinds of secretly pleased by another stealth tool), just like my dad’s, but scaled down, and represented a new sort of freedom,  not having to wait on the porch to be let in after shopping or other errands.  I could also let my parents in when their hands were full with bags or other sundries.  Later on, though, it became representative of my generation of latchkey kids, entrusted to go home, go straight to home and do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Every generation has new challenges, I suppose; when I was little and ran off in the store to stare hungrily at the video games, hot dogs, toys, or cereal, my folks knew where they could find me after getting through the rest of the store and shopping in relative peace.  Now, of course, if you haven’t already embedded a GPS tracking device or LoJack somewhere in your child, chances are that they will be stolen as soon as they wander out of arm’s reach.  Latchkey kids were the scourge of the streets, coming after a world of always-sunny Leave it to Beaver stay-at-home parents; dad with slippers, pipe, and newspaper, mom with apron and a ready smile, each rigidly locked into their roles without question.

I understand why — my mom worked 70 hours a week in the store for ten years, and my dad’s time was split between teaching and office hours; there’s no question that if they could have avoided it, they would have.  I still have fond memories of the ages before seven, with mom picking me up after school and whiling away afternoons in quiet play (Tinkertoys, you will note, do not typically make as much noise as LEGO or wooden blocks; we had a lot of Tinkertoys scattered around afternoons).  But it’s spooky coming home to an empty house; winters you hurried back to beat the sudden slide into night and stayed put in the rooms you’d managed to get lights on in time.  When the smoke detector battery ran low and started signaling, it sounded like the pulse of monsters in closets and dark corners.  You put the key in the lock and hear the tumblers fall, open the door (ours always gave a slightly reassuring shriek) and enter with trepidation and joy.  Keys to the heart manage to unlock all manner of old thoughts and dusty treasures, naturally.


Four Sides

6 July 2008

Dear J-

Speaking of generations, a friend forwarded a document regarding how to manage the different generations in the workforce; it pointed out that there are now four different generations working side-by-side:  the veterans, the baby boomers, generation x, and the millennial generation.  Nice words were said about most of them; the veterans for their unwavering loyalty and dedication, boomers for being able to attack new problems in innovative ways, and the millennials for being so comfortable around technology, having grown up with it.  Gen X — well, they’re technologically-savvy, but not like the millenials, and they’re definitely not as hard-working as the boomers, and not as loyal as the veterans; thankfully they’re the smallest group out there.

Of course, the generation I belong to — latchkey kids, children of divorce — Generation X, we have all our ills blamed on being in that one lull of time when parents were more focussed on their issues than their children’s (hey, I was wondering why I hadn’t heard the term latchkey kid in a long time), and as a result, show skepticism with the world in general.  The phrase that stood out was that “employers should not expect permanence from them,” a phrase I initially read with the substituted word “performance,” not to mince words.

Does anyone actually vet this stuff for reality?  It does make some sense if you’re looking at the group from the outside, but most of those attitudes seem to revolve around a belief that Reality Bites captures the ethos of our generation and couldn’t possibly be, say, fifteen years out of date.  Just because I have flannel shirts older than the intern doesn’t mean I’m out of touch.  Well, not completely, that is.


P.S.  I realize my skepticism is just going to be used as fuel to the assertion that we’re naturally skeptical.