The latest real-estate statistics reveal that most millennial families that can afford homes are opting for kid-friendly spaces instead of venues for entertaining friends. This trend stands in stark contrast to the nifty fifties, when babes were stored away in playpens during the day and tucked in early enough to permit mom and dad to enjoy a formal dinner with friends. Don’t tell that to Acculturated writer Jennifer Graham, though. To her, trading in a dining room for a playroom is a sign that millennials just can’t accept adulthood. What she fails to realize, however, is that choosing playrooms over dining rooms (and children over friends) is a welcomed cultural backlash against Boomer latchkey parenting.
Unlike most of our parents, we millennials want our kids in our lives, not just in playpens or playing in the den. By the age of 10 a good friend of mine had been given the responsibility of feeding herself and her brother microwave dinners every night. Her parents owned a large house with a playroom and spent their days and nights working to pay for it. Other friends who saw their parents a tad more often still spent most of their time with friends, usually watching Friends, the sitcom that reflected the reality of latchkey parenting: We bonded better with our peers than with our parents.
Graham’s belief that we forego “fine dining” because we’re permanent juveniles neglects the fact that we were adults before our time. We’ve already spent most of our time with our peers, too. Maybe we’re opting for playrooms over dining rooms because we’ve already dined with our friends more times than not; now we’re ready to make play with our kids a priority.
The millennial preference for playrooms is refreshing, although I would caution against the mere desire for a room to keep the toys (and the kids) “out of the way.” My living room has become baby-central and somehow my husband and I, as well as our guests, still manage to use the room with ease. I’m perfectly open to the fact that my house will change over time to suit the needs of my family. I don’t care where we eat, as long as we eat together.
Never having lived in a house big enough for a “playroom,” I grew up with the benefit of a constant parent-child bond. Homework was done at the kitchen table; play in the only living room in the house. Television was a family event. It had to be since we only had one. Eventually my son will do his homework at the kitchen table and we’ll watch television together in the living room, just like I did. It’s all part of this nefarious plan of mine to ensure that as he grows older and more independent, he knows that there’s always at least one place on this earth where he’ll always be wanted and loved. Well fed, too; even if it’s on paper plates in the basement.