This article is brought to you by Snarklets, Bracelets & Gifts Hand Stamped with Mantras for Real Life.
I’m a millennial, albeit an old millennial, but a millennial none the less.
Millennial parenting brings with it a certain level of negative stereotypes. We use technology to raise our children, shielding them from the fun and adventures of the outside world. We are less likely to use corporal punishment, thereby raising undisciplined kids. We pepper social media with our narcissistic selfies, thereby creating self-centered kids. I also vaguely remember hearing something about avocado toast?
Yet for all the negative stereotypes of millennial parents, the one thing that rarely gets mentioned in a positive light is the retention of our identity as we age. We tend to start our families older than previous generations (my wife and I didn’t have children until we turned 30) and are one of the first generations to have a period of life between when our formal education ends, and the burden of familial responsibilities take hold. During that time, we tend to refine who we were as teenagers rather than completely change our identity to that of the “traditional adult.” Expectations of acceptable hobbies, tastes and interests have shifted dramatically. No longer is there a rigid set of requirements for adulthood.
One of my mother’s favorite questions to occasionally ask me is, “What is your oldest memory?” For me, that answer is simple. I remember receiving my first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure. I was three years old. My dad was laying on the couch. He had a blanket over him. I crawled up into my spot, the area behind his bent knees to find a brand new Ninja Turtle action figure already taking up space there. Just in case you’re wondering, it was Raphael.
Fast forward in time 32 years. A week ago, I was attending Retrocon, a vintage toy convention held outside of Philadelphia. Every year, I take a day off of work and spend hours combing through hundreds of boxes of vintage toys wondering just how much money I can spend and continue to be married.
This year was different. Earlier in the week, I had exposed my three-year-old twins to the 1987 Ninja Turtles cartoon. I had a new mission. I wanted to find what would be the perfect pieces to be their first action figures. During my quest, I passed on several pieces that I had been longing to have as part of my collection. However, my quarry was too important. Eventually at the far side of the convention hall, I found what I was looking for. I purchased a set of relatively rare, well-loved but still in reasonably decent condition 13 inch figures.
The boys were sleeping when I got home from the convention. I couldn’t wait for them to wake up. When they finally did, I told them that I had a surprise and ushered them down in the basement. I hurriedly lined up the figures up on our living room couch. I will never forget the sight of my two boys coming up the stairs holding hands as they babbled back and forth about the possibilities of what the surprise could be. I will never forget the look of excitement when they saw those plastic figures and knew their daddy had picked them out just for them. My action figure collection didn’t get any bigger that day, but my collection of priceless memories gained a mint condition piece.
That moment for my children and the moment I experienced as a child were similar but quite different. While the memory of getting my first action figure is one of my oldest and most favorite memories, it was a moment savored by me. This memory I created with my children is one that will remain special for all of us. This wouldn’t happen if I hadn’t retained that part of my youth into adulthood. I was able to connect with my children in a way that previous generations weren’t really “allowed” to do without receiving a good amount of ridicule.
Sure, being a father has changed me. I often find myself unconsciously tucking my t-shirt into my jeans. The clothes at Costco seem a little more stylish. Sure, Kohl’s cash has become slightly more erotic, and there is a certain level of excitement when a worn pair of sneakers gets downgraded to grass cutting shoes. Yet I still watch cartoons. I publically sport super hero t-shirts and play video games. I listen to punk rock and sport an awesome pair of Converse adorned with little pictures of Yoda. As a millennial, I’ve said to the world, I’m ok with who I am. I’m dadding on my own terms.
I’m a millennial dad and a cool one.
At least as cool as I can be in relaxed fit jeans from Costco.
This article was brought to you by Snarklets, Bracelets & Gifts Hand Stamped with Mantras for Real Life.