Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baby Boomers and Me

(following the theme of the previous blog, this one is about my parents' generation and how they raised Millennials. This is the reason for my existence.)

America’s baby-boomers are known for being cynical, individualistic, social change oriented workaholics. They focused on themselves and did not have close relationships with their parents. The boomers came of age during a questionable time in American history when people lost trust in institutions and questioned authority figures. Since they looked down upon the people of power during their time, they‘ve brought up their families to be different.

As parents, members of the baby boomer generation have overprotected their children and nurtured them into believing that they are special. They’ve tried to raise their children to become active and successful contributors of society. To contrast, their children of the Millennial Generation are optimistic, team oriented, and are known as the most pressured from all the other generations that we follow. Though my mom and dad did not come to the U.S. until they were 28 and 30 years old, they still displayed all of these baby boomer characteristics.

My parents were barely twenty years old when former President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, declared martial law. At the time, the country saw a rise in civil disobedience due to allegations of government embezzlement and corruption, as well as a fraudulent election. Marcos put power in the hands of hungry military forces who eventually abused their new found power.

At the peak of this defining period, Ninoy Aquino, who was a prominent icon of the movement, was quoted saying “The Filipino is worth dying for.” That phrase became the mindset of thousands of young people in the Philippines. After his death, protests and rallies for civil and human rights took place all over the country.

My dad wanted to be in the middle of it all. He was always found in the streets of Manila during the revolution in the late 1970s and 80s. He said “history was being made” and he wanted to be a part of it. That movement would later bring democracy, an ideal brought on by the Westerners, back to the Philippines. He took my mom along with him most of the time and my grandmother resented him because of that. Being a member of the Silent Generation, my grandmother thought it would be best to be in compliance with the new rules the government had laid down for them. My grandfather’s goal, on the other hand, was to flee the country all together. But my father didn’t agree with either of them. He believed that people had their rights stripped from them and that something had to be done about it, so he decided to stay behind and join the revolution.
In 1985 my mom and her family finalized their immigration into the United States. My mother still wanted to be involved and make a change, so she visited the Philippines frequently to be with my activist father. The two of them jumped on the protest bandwagon and found themselves in the epicenter of what is now known as the “People Power Revolution” of the Philippines.

At the end of this decade long unrest, my dad finally came to live in the U.S. with my mom and her family in 1987, the year I was born.

Life in America was a new chapter for them. They put to rest their revolution-hungry spirits and refocused their energy on achieving the American Dream. Though their opportunities in life were widely increased, they both worked minimum wage jobs in their first years of assimilation in their new home. It was suddenly a new game with new rules for them.

What didn’t change was their cynicism and their belief that everything they did was right. They enrolled me in public school, but questioned the decisions made by the school board. They put me in a swimming class criticized the instructors techniques. I remember when I was in band, my dad looked over my music sheets and said “why are they teach thing you this way? That’s wrong.“ He then started giving me music lessons on his own, which sometimes contradicted what my teachers in school were saying.

But where is this resistance really coming from? Maybe its because the boomers saw our world rise and fall, so they want their children to be able to survive and succeed in it, no matter what happens. In “Parenting the Millenial Generation,” author Dave Verhaagen said friction was common for baby boomers. They worry about the world their children grow up in. “It’s a new world” he writes, “and we would all be wise to learn how to navigate our families through it.” My parents have always pushed me to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to me. They told me I was “unique” and that I was “special.”

The circumstances I was born into and the way they’ve raised me as an American-born child reflect these generational effects. The mindset behind their fight for civil and human rights in the Philippines cement the idea that as a Millennial, I am pressured to be successful. Still, I am optimistic about my future.

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