I Hope I’m Smiling As Much As This Old Man When I’m His Age

I hope I’m smiling as much as this gentleman when I’m old and (I hope) answering similar questions for my grandchildren, grandnieces, and grandnephews so many years from now. Asked what are the first things about growing up that come to mind, he says, “I just thought it was … hard times, that’s all, it was hard times.” Among his challenges: “Getting along in the family with my father,” his father’s alcohol dependence, “my mother too, she had some breakdowns too,” and “knowing what to do when I got out of high school.” Finally: “I don’t know, it was just growing up.”

Those of us whose parents or grandparents were part of the Greatest Generation know firsthand or from oral tradition how different were their lives, struggles, wars, and economic woes. But interviews with our elders also illustrate that human nature is fixed, and that although circumstances radically change, sound parenting in the last century will have much in common with sound parenting in the next—and in this one, too.