Where have all the grandparents gone? Well, like the poignant song so movingly sung by Carole King at Clifton Maloney’s funeral, they’re “So Far Away,” surely off the radar screen of the custom- and view-shapers. Anyone hear about existing grandparents in the non-stop “Balloon Boy” coverage?
Grandparents tend to be a bit more, say, socially conservative than their adult offspring, and they worry about their “youngers” in an ever more dangerous world, and maybe in their home world, too. But they’re taught not to “interfere” or be off the radar screen permanently. Interventions or mediations are rarely arranged to bridge the family divides from which every generation potentially suffers.
So does society, warned “grandmother of the world” anthropologist Margaret Mead to the American Bar Association in, sadly, her last public address. But the tragedy is her pleas to reunite family generations have gone unheeded; that’s the plight of many counter-cultural prophets.
Yes, it’s a major uphill mission of mine, even when offspring don’t have offspring, to maintain meaningful ties with the family of origin, mothers and fathers especially, and other extendeds, including the most oppressed group, in-law parents. Bring on the communication and relationship skill training big-time to prevent and/or overcome the problems that inevitably arise.
As for custom- and view-shaping media, when my TV recently went to black, I tuned in the Joan Hamburg radio show (WOR 710 AM, noon to 2 p.m.) just in time to hear her lament the way adult sons did not call their mothers enough. Her women guests and call-in listeners all avowed it was a real problem. But there’s hope, if Joan starts a movement to overcome not just “the son problem,” but also the societal one that so often segregates families by generation. Let’s urge her to make this a regular feature on her program, predominantly about food, restaurants, shopping and other “material things” (212-321-8828).
Two days later, I by chance tuned in to Joan’s show again and heard PBS chef Lidia Bastianich talk more about family relationships than about recipes in her new book. In essence, she said she felt strongly that family generations must become more connected. A direct quote: “Society must somehow slow down and become more concerned with maintaining these family ties when they exist.” Her mother, 82, appears on her show, and so do her offspring and grand offspring. In-laws too. But it would sure help the cause, Lidia, if your program regularly included recipes on how to nurture these vital connections. And maybe the “family rich” need to be reminded to more often include the “family poor.” May the concerned leave that message for Lidia at Channel 13 (212-560-1313) and Channel 21 (516-367-2100).
And how Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. needs to include this family-strengthening Rx in stopping the “youth violence” he pledged to address after the videotaped fatal beating of Chicago high school honor student Derrion Albert. But that’s just the tip of the youth violence iceberg, and not only in the United States. Maybe Holder shouldn’t downplay its greater prevalence in poor neighborhoods and where fathers are more often absent.
He needs an intergenerational talk with C. Everett Koop, now 90, who, as surgeon general in 1982, called “youth violence” (murders, physical and sexual crimes, suicides and traffic deaths) the nation’s number-one public health problem. He blamed not only inadequate family support, but the evermore violent “youth entertainment menu.”
Holder’s mission, indeed the war against all criminal violence, should be government’s foremost domestic concern; its success will depend on getting as much media attention as the sensational “Balloon Boy.”
In the meantime, join me in the immediately doable “Smile Movement” with a Halloween that is more smiley than scary.
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