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April 21, 2024

There are three generations represented in my immediate family. My wife and I are ‘boomers’. My daughter is Gen X and my sons are Millennial (AKA Gen Y).

If it had taken just a little while longer, my youngest son would have been Gen Z. There are a lot of generations still around.

  • Lost Generation – 1883-1900.
  • Greatest Generation – 1901-1927.
  • Silent Generation – 1928-1945.
  • Baby Boomers – 1946-1964.
  • Generation X – 1965 – 1980.
  • Millennials – 1981-1996. (Also called Gen Y)
  • Generation Z – 1997-2012.
  • Generation Alpha – 2013 – present.

As you can see, the names each generation has been given are all over the map. After the baby boomers, the names are not even very descriptive. Why did the names start with X after the ‘Boomers’? Are generations starting in 2026 going to be labeled following the Greek system? My parents were of the Silent Generation. I found this list also varies a little from site to site as far as Millennials and Generation Z, varying from 1995 to 1997. I found links for all three.

There are two years between my daughter and my oldest son. There are 16 years between my oldest son and my younger son. Depending on the website you reference, my immediate family encompasses either three or four of those generations. That is how I got interested in this whole topic in the first place. I stumbled on a website that listed Generation Z as starting in 1995. All of that and $5 will almost get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Free will get you several world views. The devil can be in those details though.

I have always been ambivalent about stereotypes. All members of any group are not all the same. They will differ in politics, religion, worldview, style, music, art, interests, etc. Etc. ETC. If you check out the link I referenced, you will see sweeping statements made about the different generations. Some of it matches me and my boomer wife. I also have characteristics of the other generations.

One frequent fact announced about us boomers is how we are moving into retirement . . . how we are going to tax the social security system and those generations who will pick up the burden of funding it. You can bet pre-boomers and boomers who are not collecting social security are nervously watching news items social security-related. Actually, collecting boomers are watching too. Equally nervously. Many stories suggest that post-boomer generations despair of even getting any of those benefits. We are following stories about Medicare too. Follow the bouncing can. The one that has been ‘kicked down the road’ for decades.

I noticed when talking about generations pronouns are not the emphasized parts of speech. Adjectives seem to be the most employed parts of speech related to generations. Millennials’ adjectives include collaborative. Purpose-driven. Disloyal. Creative. Millennials complain about their jobs. And switch jobs more readily than boomers. Some refer to them as the ‘Job Hopping’ generation.

Search for characteristics of Gen X and you will find a trove of interesting information. The one that really caught my eye was ‘Latch Key Kid’. This was a label put on kids who had to have a house key when they got home from school because their parents worked. (Parents were boomers). Members of this generation have also been called the ‘Slacker Generation’, ‘MTV Generation’, and ‘Baby Busters’. If you are not a Boomer, Google those.

What I believe is that generalizing characteristics of generations is about as useful as generalizing characteristics of people born under different zodiac signs. Some things match. Some things don’t. These generalizations strike me a lot as prejudice. Prejudging does not only happen in matters of race. It always seems to involve generalization though. I have an adult in Gen X, Gen Y, and depending on the website you consult, Gen Z. I see characteristics of each that correspond to the stereotypes of each generation. But there is more. They do not fit neatly into any one generation’s characteristics. They carry the genes of two Boomers and influence of all generations to one degree or another by bloodline, education, social influence, online experience, etc. We are all of us a product of everything that ever touched us or our parents, classmates, or congregations.

The lesson I’m taking away is that everyone is different. Putting people in boxes divides but it doesn’t really describe or define. My adults are different from me and my wife. They are different from each other in a LOT of ways. They all are successful in their careers. My sons have Bachelor’s degrees. My daughter stopped at her Associate’s degree. All of them smoke, or have smoked at one time. My wife did briefly in high school. Me, not so much. My oldest son is a people person. My youngest son is not. My daughter is. And also is not. Depends on the day. There is a great old song (1990) by Paul Overstreet, “I’m Seeing My Father In Me”, one of my favorite songs ever. The chorus has a moving insight:

I’m seeing my father in me
That’s the way it’s meant to be
I find I’m more and more like him each day
I notice I walk the way he walks
I notice I talk the way he talks
More and more I see
My father in me.

I don’t think it is the epoch in which we are born that determines us. We are all of us a product of everything that ever touched us or our parents, classmates, or congregations. It has been said there is more that unites us than divides us. I enjoy the variety. Sometimes the politics of my oldest son annoy me. Or my daughter’s parenting choices. Or my youngest son’s temper jolts me. I love them all. And the generations springing from them in all their diversities. I see me in them. And them in me. A little bit of every generation ever in the lot of us.

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