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The last generation raised on guilt

You may not realize this, but if you are a baby boomer, you are among the last generation of kids raised on guilt. Why, yes, a moment of silence would be in order.

We had mothers who said things like, "You kids are gonna be the death of me one day! Can you live with that?" Our mothers said things like, "Are you gonna be the one that breaks your momma's heart?" or "I'm only your mother, don't give me another thought."

That last one brought me low and actually led me to full-fledged remorse on several occasions.

I was blessed to have an imaginative mother who was creative with her use of guilt. She used to say that bruises were punishment for telling lies. I bruised easily as a child. Sometimes I bruised faster than I could lie.

Guilt was such a part of the landscape that it was even part of our childhood games: Step on a crack, break your mother's back. Each day I walked to school gingerly stepping over the cracks between the slabs of sidewalk.

It was bad enough I was breaking my mother's heart, why throw her back into the mess as well? If we did something wrong, if the school called home or a neighbor ratted us out, we were the ones who bore the burden of guilt.

Our mothers all but pinned nametags on us that said, "Hello, My Name is Guilty." If we did something wrong it was our fault, not our mother's fault. Guilt sat comfortably on the shoulders of the child.

And then the winds blew, the earth tilted, and there was a cataclysmic change. The guilt shifted from the child to the parent. Instead of heaping guilt on our kids, as had been done to us, we began heaping it on ourselves.

Anything that went wrong in the child's life could now be traced directly to the mother. (Ladies, this was not a good move.)

A new crop of experts weighed in and mothers soon learned that their every move had the potential of being the wrong one. As a new mother raising small children, these are the guilt-inducing things I heard: "You'd better feed that baby on demand. Don't you put that baby on a schedule; your mother fed you on a schedule and look at what a mess you are!"

"If you potty train too soon, your child may wind up in prison -- research shows a lot of prisoners were potty trained too early."

If our children had tantrums, breakdowns, roughhoused on the bus, didn't eat enough, didn't make the right team, the right band, or get into the right preschool or the right college, the guilt would be ours. When it came to guilt, my mother's generation believed it truly was more blessed to give than to receive. Their world involved kids, but didn't revolve exclusively around kids. They had the audacity to maintain adult interests, adult friends and adult conversations.

And they didn't feel the least bit guilty.

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