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Lifespan Perspective

Describe an aspect of your development that differs from a parent's or grandparent's when she or he was your age!

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Since the age of nineteen,  my life has been totally different from my mother. My mother was almost exactly twenty years older than I am. More importantly, she grew up in completely  different time. What was my mother doing at the age of 50?

Background sets the scene.  My mother was born right before the depression.  She lived through that and then as a teenager, World War II.  She was an only child. Her grandmother lived with her parents and taught her everything that she knew.  Her family was very middle class. Her dad was a barber and her mother, a piano teacher.

My mother never worked outside the home.  Highly intelligent, she went to college when most women did not go. (Valedictorian of her highschool class of 275 students.) During her last semester as a junior in college, my dad came home from the navy. They went on a blind date, married four months later, and neither of them finished college. I was born ten months after they married.  She stayed home to be the wife and mother because my dad wanted her to, so she did.  That was the way it was in the 40s and 50s. They were married for 54 years before my father died.

When she was fifty, both of her daughters were gone from home.  Her girls had college degrees and were teachers.  I had been married twice and divorced: once for 25 years and the second for 5 years. My younger sister was the first person in our family to have a divorce. Mother sewed, crocheted, and fussed with dad (Nothing serious!).  Televison was her main activity.  She cooked every day and hand washed her dishes, never wanting a dishwasher.  My dad was still working, so they really had something to talk about.

Her life was unthreatened by most of the evils of the world: no enemies, no quarrels, no abuse, no financial struggles, no real physical problems (those came later!) My mother did not talk about foolish things like feelings, sex, emotions...she thought those could be best handled by taking the bull by the horns and straightening up.  When I told her that I was having marital problems, her response was: "Are you making yourself available to your husband? That is your responsbility!"

What was I doing at age 50?

Emerson said: To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

My only problem with that was I still did not know who I was. My life had been devastated. My husband found a new love after twenty-five years of marriage. That rocks every part of a person's being.





That is how you feel when you are left behind. I was a counselor at a middle school. I had been "Teacher of the Year" both as a teacher and as a counselor. My job was difficult. My daughter was in college.  For the first time in my life, I was alone.  So what do I do?

I retired from teaching at the age of 50 after 30 years in public schools.  I became a flight attendant for American Airlines based in Chicago and flew for 3 years. 

No our lives were not parallel, Nor were we at all alike.  However, we loved one another and would have done anything for each other. 

My mother lived by this credo and taught it to me.

 Never complain, never explain. Resist the temptation to defend yourself or make excuses.

I am not always successful at it, but i try.

Thanks for listening/reading.

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When my parents were my age they had been married for ten years. I think that they got lucky to find each other when they were rather young, but I also think that they both expected to find someone to marry when they were in their early twenties. 

The expectations for this kind of relationship-timeline is different for my generation. Though many of my friends are now married, I have no friends that were married as young as my parents. The reason for this discrepency, it seems, has more to do with expectations of when marriage would/should happen than it has to do with finding the right person. 



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My work life heavily relies on computers, where my parent's rarely if ever used one before they retired. It makes it easier for me to keep a grade book, calculate averages, do lesson plans, etc. I also had the luxury of attending college without worrying about the expense as my parents were in a financial situation that was better than their parents before them were. It was always assumed I would go to college and graduate school, whereas my grandparents just made it to junior high school and then were expected to work.

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As a teacher I like to compare my teaching experience to that of my granddad's; he was a teacher and basketball coach in a very small school in rural Tennessee before World War II.  As I would tell him all about using computers in the classroom, he would laughingly remind me that his basketball players used to travel to their games in a 'school wagon,' rather than a school bus.  My classroom has built in wireless, television, smartboards, and digital projector, whereas his classroom was one long room divided by one long bench for the boys and one long bench for the girls.  The classroom and the approach to education has changed remarkably in the last sixty years.

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My grandmother left school in the fifth grade to get a job to help support her family, something many children did in the early 1900's.  There were no child labor laws and no compulsory education laws in the early part of the century.  My life as a fifth-grader was spent going to school, jumping rope and playing jacks, having milk and cookies after school, taking dancing lessons and piano lessons, and using my allowance for penny candy and comic books.  I cannot imagine being ten years old and getting up every day to go to work.  But the very concept of childhood is a modern construct, one that people for thousands of years managed without.

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My grandfather was my current age in 1953 and 1954.  That meant that he had lived through the Great Depression and had served in the Navy in WWII.  Having lived through those calamities would have given him a very different perspective on life (also given the fact that he was born on a farm with no running water or electricity) than I have with my pampered existence.  

My grandparents were my age at a time when women did not really work outside the home.  That is another thing that is very different between my experience and theirs.

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I know that there are many differences between my development and that of my parents. First of all, college was not something my parents were able to pursue right out of high school. However, both returned to get degrees in teaching later. My mother's options were limited. She was able to work as a secretary, but never encouraged to have a fulltime career until after the kids were grown and reinventing oneself became an option, especially for women. Technology has left my father behind: he's just not interested. However my mother very much enjoys managing her email account and playing computer games. My mother was born at the beginning of the Great Depression. That didn't have much. The kids in my family were able to first enjoy transister radios; then cassette tapes, 8-tracks, and ultimately CDs and DVDs. My parents were raised listening to radio and then black and white TV. We watched TV that was in color and were able to record onto video tapes.

My mother was raised amid social expectations that were different than those I was raised with. My uncle went to war. My mom got a job. A kiss was a big deal. Virginity was very much the norm rather than the exception. There were problems with alcoholism, but drugs were not a part of the mainstream. While I was growing up, drugs came into the mainstream; teenage pregnancy became more prevalent; "virginity" meant you weren't cool. And a kiss was expected—and more if a girl would allow it.

Even today, my life is very different. I am once divorced and have step-children and well as a child from this marriage. My mother and father have endured a great deal and are ready to celebrate 60 years of marriage. Divorce was not something as "casual" in their younger years as it is today.

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My grandparents were my current age in the 1950's. It was quite a different world back then. I think the US as a country had a very idealistic view of our role in the world at that time. Now we see ourselves sometimes as targets of hatred and violence.

The world was a lot simpler. People still read the newspaper to get most of their news and television was a novelty. People spent a lot more time relating to each other face-to-face. Now we're communicating through texts, facebook, or not at all by using our portable music and earphones to block out the world.

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Two aspects immediately come to mind: First, my father was drafted into the army and was forced to spend several years fighting in Europe during World War II. He was wounded there, and the old wound eventually shortened his life. Luckily, I missed out on the Vietnam War and chose not to join the military (as my father also advised). Happily, I have witnessed warfare at a distance. Secondly, the electronic advancements of the late 20th and early 21st centuries would have left both of my parents behind. I still remember my father coming home and explaining that he needed to learn how to use a sliderule; he never mastered it, and he thought computers were a fad with no useful purpose for the average person. As for me, I have worked on a computer daily for nearly 25 years and can't fathom living without one.

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