Do you know what I’ve discovered? A Zombie Apocalypse really is coming and our millennial offspring are going to get their proverbial asses kicked (or their souls sucked out), whichever comes first. Every generation has an “apocalypse” of some sort. The Baby-Boomers’ parents (arguably the greatest generation that has ever lived) had their apocalypse of WWII, the Holocaust, and Jim Crow brutality and inhumanity that cost millions of lives and shattered equally as many dreams and destinies. The Baby Boomers had Viet Nam, AIDS, presidential and iconic assassinations, 9-11, and now economic devastation denying us the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in our golden years. We, the Baby Boomers, sold our children, the Millennials, a bill of goods about what to expect out of life when they were growing up, and now they are ill-equipped to handle the shit that is already coming their way.
Image from confessionsoftheid.com
In our desire to protect them, we wrapped our cherubs in cellophane to preserve their self-esteem, hovered over them like they were Fabergé eggs, and decried that “there were no losers, only winners” while demanding our babies win a trophy just for showing up. We gave our pumpkins bicycle helmets to stave off concussions (even though we would have collapsed from laughter at the thought of us ever wearing one while we rode on the handle bars of our older siblings’ bikes before we were old enough to tie our own shoes). We demanded bigger and better Fort Knox car seats for our dumplings, we tore up asphalt playgrounds so our darlings’ little knees wouldn’t get scraped, we succeeded in declaring peanut butter public enemy #1, and we put paranoid warning labels on our babies’ $800 strollers that said: “Please Remove Child before Storing Stroller in Trunk of Car.”
Now the Zombies are coming, and how do we tell our adult children (before they pass this suffocation on to their children) that none of that self-esteem bullshit and über-maniacal safety paranoia will stave off the destruction of their hopes and dreams or keep their fragile hearts from breaking when their lives go to hell in a handbasket? Oh, shit!
Buckwheat Magnet/Little Rascals||image from rollinoatstampa.com
I can’t sit back and do nothing. I must warn my fellow parents that we’ve blown it with our kids before it is too late. I must do what I can to save our babies from the zombies by giving them the only sure-fire zombie weapon that has worked for every generation since the dawn of man: knowing how to own the suck. Recently, I took my “Big Mama Speaks” show on the road and held a couple of “Helicopter Moms Focus Groups” to chat with mothers who are trying to break free of the helicopter syndrome, and it was quite an eye-opener.
Helicopter Mom||image from mommaneedsabeer.blogspot.com
FREE RANGE PARENTS AND “OWNING THE SUCK” SUPPORT GROUP
BIG MAMA: Evenin’ everybody and welcome. My name is Big Mama, and I’d like to let you know that, believe it or not, I am a survivor of the “helicopter mama” syndrome and have been clean and sober for a decade. I no longer wake up with cold sweats in the middle of the night freakin’ out that something has happened to my kids that I didn’t prepare them for or protect them from and screamin’ to the high heavens: “Help me Jesus to fix this wayward child, oooh, help me Lord!” Can I get an Amen?
(ROUND OF APPLAUSE AND AUDIBLE GASPS WITH NODS OF APPROVAL FROM SEVERAL IN THE AUDIENCE AS ALL RESPOND WITH A RESOUNDING “AMEN!”)
BIG MAMA: We’re here tonight to learn how to “let go” of our kids and our fears for them and teach them how to soar without being afraid to fail while doing what I call “owning the suck.” Does anybody know what our motto, “owning the suck,” means?
SANDY HOMEMAKER: Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh . . . I do! It’s a military term that soldiers use on the battlefield and it means, acknowledge the crap (excuse my French) that has come against you (being shot at, watching your buddies die, missing your loved ones), and then muster the grit and perseverance through the miserable conditions on the battlefield and rise to seize the day. We learned about “owning the suck” from Lieutenant Colonel Tammy Duckworth who was our guest speaker last year. She was shot down in Iraq, lost both her legs and the full use of one of her arms, for which she received the Purple Heart. Lt. Col. Duckworth is running for Congress and has devoted her life to making the lives of injured veterans more palatable. There I think that about does it.
BIG MAMA: Excellent Sandy! Does anybody know what the term “Helicopter Mom” means?
SALLY HOMEMAKER: Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, I do, I do! Ask me, ask me! It’s a derogatory term that means an overprotective and overly-involved mother who hovers—helicopter-like—over her children (at school, etc.) to see how they are doing, and then swoops in to give advice or aid if they seem to falter or fail, never giving them a chance to work things out on their own.
BIG MAMA: Go on girl, with your bad self—aren’t you the smart one! Now that we’ve clarified what we don’t want to be and where we’re going, who would like to give us an example of their bad-ass helicoptering mama ways?
SALLY HOMEMAKER: Oh, oh, oh, oh I have a story, although it’s way in the past because I got free from the helicopter mommy syndrome quite a few years ago. I just come to the classes to help support my friends.
BIG MAMA: Ha . . . and what a support you are, Sally. How about letting one of the other sistas share their stories for a bit, okay?
Image courtesy of rmsbunkerblog.wordpress.com
DOTTIE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER: (Sigh!) I’ll go next, if you don’t mind. I know the definitions too, but I can’t put them into practice. I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t let go of my son no matter how hard I try. I’m so afraid he’s going to do the wrong thing and fuck up his life. I finally got him in college last year but that took an arm and a leg to make it happen. I had to fill out all of his college applications because he kept procrastinating, and then when he got there, I found myself calling him every morning at 7:00 a.m. before I went to work to wake him up (as I did every day in high school) for his 8 a.m. English Comp class. Even with all that, he ended up missing most of his classes from what I understand. “Just couldn’t wake up,” he said. How is that fucking possible with me ringing his phone off the hook every three minutes?
BIG MAMA: Oh girl, you’ve got it bad—I’m so sorry.
SALLY HOMEMAKER: Dottie, I see instantly where your problem is . . .
BIG MAMA: Sally, sweetie, would you mind doing me a favor and going out to my car to get the door prizes from the trunk? Thank you ever so much, Baby. (Everybody holds their breath until Sally is out of the room and then they all breathe a collective sigh of relief!) Go on, Dottie. That should buy us at least five minutes. After that, I can’t give you any guarantees you’ll get a word in edgewise.
DOTTIE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER: Well, it gets worse than that, Big Mama. At the end of the year, my son got an F+ in English Comp on his final paper and a laundry list of nasty comments from his professor:
- “I’m to believe you’re the student who read Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past—all 4,211 pages—when on the first day of class you said the only book you’d read the entire summer was the juvenile lit books, The Hunger Games?”
- “Tell your mother congrats on having read Proust’s most industrious work and her substantive dissertation about him; I recognized her syntax from all the emails she’s sent me over the semester on your behalf. For her input, I gave her the “plus” to marry your “F” for plagiarism.”
BIG MAMA: Oh, Lord Jesus . . . I’m speechless! You know this story is wrong on so many levels, right Dottie?
DOTTIE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER: I know, I know, but I’m scared to death about my boy’s future. By the time our kid figures out how derailed his life will be without a proper education, he’ll be saying, “Do you want fries with that?” for the rest of his life while still living with my husband and me until the day we die.
BIG MAMA: Baby, I’ve got to ask you a very important question: who is it that wants the education—you or your son? Whose life is it—yours or his? If he can’t “own the suck” of getting his sorry ass up in the mornin’ and won’t attend classes or do the hard work required, then you need to let the chips fall where they may, Sugah, and let him shuffle on down to McDonald’s putting an end to his Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Time to let the little dude go, Mommy, until he can acquire the grit and determination needed to work hard to get whatever he wants out of life.
True Grit Baby|image from dailysatori.com
ROSEANNA, THE RECRUITER: Speaking of “letting go,” I have something to say. I don’t have any children and with what I’ve seen of your offspring, I don’t want any children. I am a recruiter for a Fortune 500 company and I am here to plead with all y’all mothers to stay the fuck out of your kids’ lives. Excuse my crudeness, but I don’t know how else to say it. By the time your urchins start looking for jobs, you can’t help them through the process. The best you can do is listen to them after they have run the gauntlet of an interview session, but unless they ask you for advice, shut the fuck up!
Shadow Mom||Image from hreonline
BIG MAMA: Hold the phone, girlfriend. You want to dial it down some?
ROSEANNA, THE RECRUITER: I’m sorry. But I am losing my religion over you mothers. Over the past year, I’ve had five mothers come to the job interviews with their Johnny or Susie—parking their asses right in the waiting room of our office building, and at least one mother came in and tried to negotiate salary for one of our interns. A colleague of mine had a mother try to contest the fact that her kid was not given employment and “didn’t we know how fantastic he was—any company would be thrilled to have him?” If your kids can’t send in their own résumés, or show up to interview for a job without you shadowing them, then heaven help us all, because some of these people will be our future leaders one day. Do you know that some of my competitors are instituting a “Take Your Parents to Work Day” so that Mommy and Daddy get to see their little angels’ work environment, as if this were their kindergarten class? This is not what I signed up for. Somebody shoot me now!
SALLY HOMEMAKER: I’m back, everybody. Now who needs my advice?
I am discovering that “shit happens” to all generations. It has been so since the dawn of man and it will be so until the end of time. There have always been wars and rumors of wars, unfathomable diseases, devastating natural disasters, and holocausts of man’s inhumanity to man—in other words, “zombie apocalypses.” Much of it comes like a thief in the night, and much of the mayhem is beyond our control—no matter what the religious and political grand pooh-bahs tell us. But all of it can be conquered by strength of character if we learn how to own the suck!
Lately, every poll I read says that the Baby Boomers’ greatest fear is that their children will not be better off than they. I suppose that means that we’re afraid that our kids won’t get to have the American dream of a great job, a beautiful home, and 2.5 kids that can grow up to go to college and start the cycle all over again. But what if the very threat of the loss of those things is meant to produce something else in our kids—something money can’t buy—like character! What if our kids are meant to be heroes wherever they may end up—whether that’s working in a drug rehab in Harlem or lobbying for better medical care for veterans who have lost their limbs and minds because our kids have walked a mile in their shoes without any legs?
Tammy Duckworth||image from democraticunderground.com
Illinois Democratic congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth is a double-amputee veteran who won a Purple Heart for her service in the Iraq War. “She found a way to turn profound adversity to her advantage. That makes her a model for other people suffering hardship. Being forced to recover from an extreme challenge amplified Duckworth’s sense of purpose. ‘I was always about other people’s approval,’ she said of herself looking back, before being shot down changed her life. Afterward, she said, ‘I had a new sense of fearlessness, because even on my worst day, nobody was shooting at me.’”—by Rick Newman, Huffingtonpost||What Joe Walsh Needs to Know About Tammy Duckworth
“The good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.” Seneca quotes (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD)
“Difficulties show men what they are. In case of any difficulty remember that God has pitted you against a rough antagonist that you may be a conqueror, and this cannot be without toil.”—Epictetus (Greek philosopher associated with the Stoics, AD 55-c.135)
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