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for our Global Pen Pal, Year 2009, we will go in yet another direction in our global letter writing. This year we will try to engage an intergenerational discussion across cultures, generations with 2 people who have never met before. I have been kindly introduced to Hella Kramer in Bonn, Germany. Hella is a retired physician, mother and grandmother living in Europe. I am an active working mother of 2 boys, age 4 and 6, with aging parents. I am the founder and managing editor of IF mag (my name is Cat Wayland) and I teach as a substitute teacher. I should like us to write to one another when the time is available and find out one another's perspective. I hope to learn much and make a new friend.

Dear Hella,

I work as a Youth Advisor for my church and I find Youth today strikingly different from when I was a young girl. I find parents of youth even more strikingly different.

Today in a religious education meeting with the parents and adults, I was told that it is not possible to get a teenager to attend a 10:00 a.m. service on Sunday.  My boys are only 4 and 6 and YES we give them choices and we try to be fair but some of those choices have consequences.  So, when my 6 year old talks back, he chooses to forfeit gymnastics.  And I hope I am still strong enough to tell my teens that if they choose to sleep in for an important family church service, then they forfeit the car for the week. Maybe I am being naive. 

There is a great sense of self in the youth I work with. They are strongly identified in themselves and
their peers, very independent of their parents. This seems quite good. The youth are critical in the decision making of their lives, whereas I was required to do much of what I was told. Again, this seems both good and sometimes dangerous. This freedom and power is driven by youth and responded to by parents. 

One thing that is important to mention in U.S. culture is that the Social Services has cracked down on discipline.  I believe that if any parent uses any kind of physical punishment they are in jeopardy of losing their child.  This may be the reason why parents have fled to 14 hour a day careers and left the schools, daycares, and sports programs to raise their children.  It is often talked about a child calling in their parent or a teacher reporting abuse.  This empowerment is good and dangerous.  Good when it is an abusive situation, bad when it is a good parent and home and the call is an empowered, bratty child.

Also the U.S. youth is exposed in our media much earlier. I don't remember magazines following children as much as they do today. On the pages and covers are small children of celebrities or politicians with the wardrobes and mannerisms commented about as much as the adults if not more.

Academic curriculum for youth in the U.S. seems to need revision. We have extended the required education levels now to minimum B.A. with more students getting graduate level degrees and yet youth are more lost for longer, living at home and starting real careers in their 30s rather than their 20s.

These are thoughts that I wanted to speak aloud and see how things fared in Germany. Look forward to hearing from you,
Cat Wayland,
IF mag editor


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