by Beth Diane Bradley
Accidents happen. I know this for a fact because I am one. Meaning my existence was not planned, at least not by my parents. My family not only had the normal generation gap between parents and children, but we had a second one of 12 years between my siblings and me.
For the most part, it created a useful and interesting dynamic. My sister and brother acted as understudies to my real parents, who were still recovering from the first time around. This meant I got to be an honorary teenager at two-years-old. My diaper-clad rendition of the twist was unmatched by any other toddler in the neighborhood.
I loved to play dress up in my sister’s prom dresses. I waddled around in her high heels, imagining they were Cinderella’s glass slippers, and smeared her lipstick all over my face. I found the fact that she shaved her legs to be extremely glamorous — sadly, shaving my own legs has never been quite as fascinating.
I was six when my sister got married, and my parents gave me the standard line that I wasn’t losing my sister, I was gaining a brother. In my little girl mind, that meant he was moving in with us. When I found out that was not the case, it lead to serious abandonment issues — which has given me a convenient excuse for any problems I’ve had ever since.
The generation gap grew when I became a real teenager. My parents had to adjust from my sister who wore poodle skirts, to me and my blue jeans. I remember my mother gazing with horror at my ragged bell bottom jeans, and saying “Denim pants are for milking cows in the barn. We do not live on a farm!”
In my later teens, I learned it was often best to protect my parents from the harsh realities of my generation. I made sure some of my activities were as invisible as those cows we didn’t have. That tactic worked fine until one of my friends spilled peppermint schnapps on the basement rug.
Years later I became a mother of teenagers, and the generation gap between us was measured in megabytes. My oldest son was especially adept at outsmarting his parents at a very young age. We put parental controls on our computer and safely guarded the password, but it didn’t take long before he learned how to undo anything that cramped his style. Like with most parents of our era, the kids ended up teaching us how to use our cell phones, fix our computers, and navigate the latest online trends.
Each generation has its own slang, and that is groovy, neat or cool — depending on your age, man — which reminds me about the time my oldest son had some friends over to our house. I was talking to his brother on the phone, explaining to him some girls had left their thongs by the door, and went down to the basement. “I can’t wait to come home and check that out,” he said with a touch of sarcasm.
Duh. My bad! When my kids were learning how to talk, I didn’t realize some day they’d teach me the proper name for a pair of shoes. Now that’s what I call a flip flop.