where wildly different is perfectly normal
The Rules Have Changed
The Rules Have Changed

The Rules Have Changed

I lit into my kid today. Doesn’t even really matter which one; later this afternoon his brother is getting Variation on a Theme, followed by Second Verse Same as the First parental duet for both young men, and probably an encore of This Is The Song That Never Ends: What Your Parents ^&#$% Expect and You’d Better Follow Through Or Else.

Anyone else feel like they’re at the very end of the last string of the most frayed rope of the safety net that no longer exists? Tie a knot and hang on, my ass. There’s barely enough left of that string to floss my teeth, much less hold my weight. Every time I think there is no way things could get worse more screwed up convoluted and absurd, America hiccups and slurs, “Hold Mah Beer Liquor Cabinet,” and proceeds to show me just how very incorrect I was.

It used to be that you work hard in school, get good grades, go off to a good college, get a good job, work hard, do well. I was raised with that mindset and so were all of my friends growing up. All of my high school friends went off to college, most of them to study engineering or law or business. We’re all more or less contributing members of society, raising kids, and caring for parents. We all played the game. We all played the game.

My husband and I grew up with those set of rules, having been born into the game of our generation. For awhile we were successful at the game, even won a round or two. Then…no.

The rules have changed. Pfft…screw that. The rules are changing, constantly. Life has become an exhausting game of Calvinball, with no breaks, no substitutions, and absolutely no goddamned idea WTF is going on. The goal posts aren’t so much moving as transporting in and out of multiple dimensions at once, and god help you if you don’t know which goal post and which dimension is yours. The rules have changed, but the game is still being played by the previous rules…until it’s not. The game hates the new rules…until it doesn’t. And all the players are caught in the middle, playing a game that no one understands with corrupt referees and equipment dangerous enough that an eyeball shish-ka-bob is considered a minor injury. Rub some dirt on it and keep going.

GenZ (iGen? What are we calling these kids?) is growing up with GenX parents who have gotten screwed by the game, despite following all the rules hammered into their heads. They’re growing up with incoherent rules for a game that no one wants to play anymore. Do they play the game of their GenX parents? Work hard and get high marks for a good college and good job? Or do they thumb their noses at that and blaze their own path, much to the derision of society and concern of their parents? They’re damned if they do and damned if they do.

My first year of college I had to take music theory, which just about did me in. So many rules to music. And when we’d bitch about it, the professor would just calmly tell us that we had to learn the rules so we could break them later. Pure nonsense at the time, absolute truth later.

So when I lit into my kid today, it finally came down to: Play the Game. Succeed at the Game. Change the Game.

I don’t care if you like the game, I don’t care if you want to play it. The Game doesn’t care either.

Much has been written about previous generations of parents, and how today’s parents are helicopters or bulldozers or tiger moms or free range or whatever the analogy of the moment is. Thing is, previous generations of parents had a fairly set game, not one in which the rules change without warning and then blame the player. This parent is exhausted trying to raise her amazing and complex sons, and just doesn’t know what to do anymore.

The rules are changing, the game goes on, and all of us are at risk of an eyeball shish-ka-bob.


  1. CareerusInterruptus

    8 years ago my niece’s school advised the 14yos to choose subjects they liked and were good at, because they could expect to change *careers* – not just jobs – 6 times in their working lives. And *half* the jobs they’d be doing, hadn’t been invented yet. That process is only going faster. Calvinball is a damn good analogy.

Whaddya think?

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